As the second regular session of the 19th Congress commences, the Child Rights Network urgently called for the prioritization of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (APP) Bill, a measure deemed an “urgent national priority” under Executive Order 141.
In 2021, former President Rodrigo Duterte signed EO 141, marking the issue of adolescent pregnancies in the country as a matter of urgent national concern, citing “worrying” government statistics.
While data from the Philippine Statistics Authority reveal that adolescent pregnancy among 15 to 19 years old decreased to 7.2 percent in 2021 from 14.4 percent in 2013, the Philippines remains among the ASEAN countries with the highest adolescent birth rates. About one out of 10 Filipino babies are born to adolescent mothers.
Despite the declining adolescent birth rate figures in the 15 to 19-year-old age bracket, a more worrying trend can be observed in the younger 10 to 14 age bracket. PSA data revealed registered births to adolescent mothers aged 10 to 14 increased by 20.8 percent from 1,903 in 2016 to 2,299 in 2021.
“Even though we are under a new administration now, the importance and urgency of the issues outlined in Executive Order 141 remain. The ASPP Bill is an overdue law that ensures comprehensive action to prevent children from having children,” said Romeo Dongeto, Child Rights Network convenor and executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development.
Dongeto also underlined another alarming trend revealed by PSA: from 2016 to 2020, one in every four births to adolescent mothers was fathered by men three to five years older than the mother. The PSA also revealed six to seven percent of babies born to adolescent girls from 2016 to 2020 were fathered by men 10 years older than the mothers.
“This striking data hints that there may be a significant number of adolescent pregnancies caused by sexual abuse, where older men take advantage of the power difference and coerce young girls. This is a pressing issue that our country needs to urgently address. This is precisely why the APP Bill is so important. Its purpose is to establish programs and put mechanisms in place to fight sexual violence and empower our youth with knowledge about their health, sexuality, and the importance of consent,” Dongeto said. – Press release