IT IS time to fast track the passing of a measure that seeks to prevent the adolescent pregnancy in the Philippines, according to a young lawmaker from Quezon City (QC).
First district QC Congressman Juan Carlos “Arjo” Atayde — the author of House Bill 7276 known as the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act — is encouraging all his colleagues to get their act together to create immediate policies and finally put a solution to this grave problem.
“We are hoping that this bill on adolescent pregnancy is passed so we can create immediate policies on how we put solution to this grave problem,” Atayde, a member of the House Committee on Youth and Sports Development, said.
He immediately buckled down to work in the congress after his trip to Cannes, France last May where he successfully promoted and sold his film Topakk (Trigger) along with fellow actor Enchong Dee to various foreign film producers.
The House Committee on Youth and Sports Development, he said, has recently approved a substitute bill that forms a national policy to address adolescent pregnancy as well as social protection for adolescent parents.
Atayde’s call for the bill’s passage is timely as the Philippines still has one of the highest adolescent birth rates among ASEAN countries.
Although adolescent pregnancy among those 15-19 years old has gone down to 7.2% in 2021 from 14.4% in 2013, the number of births by mothers aged 10-14 years have also shown a slight increase (1,903 in 2016 and 2,113 in 2020 according to the Philippine Statistics Authority), according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Atayde said the bill provides for the establishment of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Inter-Agency Council that would formulate and implement policies for family-oriented, adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive health programs.
The Council would also be mandated to develop an evidence-based National Medium-Term Plan for the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy.
The plan would serve as the national framework for inter-agency and inter-sectoral collaboration and resource allocation at all levels, to address the various health, cultural socio-economic and institutional determinants of adolescent pregnancy.
The bill is being pushed by The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc, of which Atayde serves as treasurer.
It is built with members of congress and other advocates that aims to formulate public policies requiring legislation on population management and socio-economic development.
Experts, the 32-year-old veteran actor said, will continue to underscore the negative effect of teen pregnancy, particularly its social and economic outcomes for both adolescent mother and child.
According to a UNFPA study, adolescent mothers are more likely not to finish high school or college and are likely to be unemployed.
The UNFPA also said that the Philippines is estimated to lose P33 billion a year due to adolescent pregnancy, and that foregone income of teenage girls who get pregnant is P83,000 a year.
Despite the decrease from 8.6 percent in year 2017 to 5.4 percent last year (2022) based on the data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Atayde said that teenage pregnancies remain a serious issue that “sinks the vulnerable deeper into poverty.”
He also stressed that teenage pregnancy is not just a problem of an individual person, but it could last for generations.
“We need to open our minds and have immediate action on how we resolve this problem,” he said.