While the number of teenage pregnancies dropped in 2020, re-electionist Senator Win Gatchalian maintained that effective measures should be in place to ensure a decreasing number of teenage mothers in succeeding years.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said that there were 56,428 live births among 10-to-17-year-old mothers in 2020, 6,082 or 10% lower than the 62,510 recorded in 2019.
According to POPCOM, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and the lack of face-to-face classes contributed to the drop in adolescent pregnancies. The population body earlier warned, however, that numbers might rise anew once pandemic concerns recede.
For Gatchalian, the government should strengthen the implementation of its mitigation measures to prevent a resurgence of teenage pregnancies.
For one, the lawmaker pressed the need to address gaps in sexuality education in schools. While the Department of Education (DepEd) issued Order No. 31 s. 2018 to guide the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) pointed out gaps in its implementation.
A March 2021 discussion paper by the state think tank revealed challenges such as the lack of qualified manpower and sufficient facilities, trainings, and instructional materials, coordination, and monitoring system. The study also pointed to the inadequacy and inaccessibility of trainings on sexuality education curriculum integration.
Gatchalian also pointed out that a higher age for determining statutory rape can also curb pregnancies among very young adults. Out of the 56,428 births from teenage parents, 51 were from girls aged 10 to 12—cases which could have resulted from statutory rape according to POPCOM. Almost 60 percent of fathers of children born to teenage mothers are aged 20 years old and above, POPCOM explained.
Last year, both houses of Congress ratified the proposed measure raising the age for determining statutory rape from 12 to 16. Gatchalian is one of the co-authors of the measure.
“Upang patuloy nating mapababa ang bilang ng mga batang ina sa mga susunod na taon, dapat nating tiyakin na may sapat tayong mga programa na magbibigay proteksyon sa ating mga kabataan. Dapat nating bigyan ito ng prayoridad dahil madalas napagkakaitan ng magandang kinabukasan ang mga batang ina,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.