Following the issuance of an executive order declaring the prevention of teenage pregnancy as a national priority, Senator Win Gatchalian reiterated the need to address existing gaps in delivering comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), which is highlighted in the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10354).
The RPRH law mandates the delivery of age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate reproductive health education. This should capacitate minors on protecting one’s self from teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, gender-based violence, and responsible teenage behavior, among others. To guide the delivery of CSE, the Department of Education (DepEd) issued Order No. 31 s. 2018.
Despite the passage of the law, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) reported that teenage pregnancies in the country continued to rise. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture repeatedly warned that lockdown measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a teenage pregnancy boom. POPCOM reported that in 2020, there were 2,422 babies born in the Cordilleras, an increase of 46.43 percent from the 1,654 born in 2019.
POPCOM said that in 2019, the number of Filipino minors who gave birth in 2019 increased to 62,510 from 62,341 in 2018. The commission also reported that in 2019, 2,411 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth, a three-fold increase from the 755 recorded in 2000.
In a March 2021 discussion paper, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) also pointed out that RPRH education lacks qualified manpower and sufficient facilities, trainings, and instructional materials, coordination and monitoring system. The state think tank also added that trainings on sexuality education curriculum integration were inadequate and inaccessible.
The senator cited the Alternative Learning System’s (ALS) potential to help facilitate the reintegration of young mothers to the education system and continue their learning. Gatchalian is the principal author and sponsor of Republic Act No. 1510 or the Alternative Learning System Act.
“Ang pagbibigay ng sapat at wastong edukasyon ay isa sa mga pinakamahalagang hakbang na pwede nating gawin upang hindi mapagkaitan ang ating mga kabataan ng magandang kinabukasan,” said Gatchalian.