A mother comforts her daughter, who is recuperating from dengue fever, in a hospital in Manila on Friday. Reuters
Manolo B. Jara, Staff Reporter
The Philippines is in the grip of a "national social emergency" arising from the unabated and alarming increase in the cases of too many Filipino teenage girls becoming mothers too soon, a senior cabinet official warned.
Ernesto Pernia, the socioeconomic planning secretary, raised the warning in a speech before the first ever summit to grapple with the emerging major problem of teenage pregnancies in suburban Pasay City in Metro Manila.
"The risk of not tackling the crisis ahead is clear — a large cross-section of families would be condemned to perpetual 'intergenerational poverty'," Pernia pointed out even as he revealed he would ask President Rodrigo "Rody" Duterte to issue an executive order acknowledging unabated teenage pregnancy as a "national social emergency." He also called on lawmakers to immediately enact laws aimed at helping reduce the problem before it gets out of hand.
Examples abound, Pernia said, citing findings of the National Demographic Health Survey in 2017, which showed that nine per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 19, have begun childbearing.
Such figure tended to increase even further when one zeroes in on the most vulnerable or impoverished population, with findings that 10 per cent of the country's teenager start to get pregnant, Pernia said.
He added that 10 per cent of teenagers in the rural areas have started childbearing, with the figure rising higher in some regions all located in Mindanao like Davao,18 per cent, as well as Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen, both 15 per cent.
In a related development, Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the immediate approval of her bill called the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act of 2918 aimed at helping solve the problem.
Hontiveros explained her bill was in reaction to Pernia's call for Congress to enact a law mandating the government to launch a comprehensive, age-appropriate programme to better inform the teenagers and their parents over issues involving say, sex and reproductive health.
The bill, Hontiveros said, also mandates more social protection programmes for teenage mothers like accessible maternal health services, workshops and livelihood projects especially those who were victims of sexual abuse or violence.
"If we fail to act and do not guide the youths towards safe and healthy lifestyles, we would not just condemn the young Filipinos to lives of poverty and suffering. We will also be hurting our country's chances for progress and development," Hontiveros said.
She asked: "How can we say the youth is the hope of the Motherland if they themselves carry a heavy burden?"
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