Filipino girls as young as 10 and 11 are giving birth and it's a cause for concern for government officials in the country.
During a forum organized by the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights on the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Bill on Wednesday in Quezon City, data presented showed a disturbing statistic: there was at least one record of a 10-year-old girl who gave birth as well as nine 11-year-olds who have become mothers. The data is sourced from the Philippine Statistics Authority's Civil Registration and Vital Statistics as of 2020 and was presented by Deogracias Hilvano, OIC of the Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Division of the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom).
The trend continues for those aged 12 and up, with an increasing number of births recorded for these adolescent girls. Even more troubling, there is also a rise in the number of minors who are having repeat pregnancies. For example, of the 41 cases of 12-year-olds who have given birth, at least one was in her second birth. There were also two cases from the 30,102 16-year-olds who have become mothers who were already in their fifth births.
One other finding based on data is that births among minor mothers are generally sired by older fathers. In fact, over 1,000 births by these mothers were from fathers who were at least 20 years older than them. In a second slide presented by Hilvano, of the total number of births recorded for minor mothers (aged 10 to 17), 24,000 were sired by fathers who were 20 to 29 years old. There were also 39 cases of these births whose fathers were in the 50-59 age range, 14 cases who were between 60 to 69 and at least two cases whose fathers were 70 years old and above.
The statistics are unsettling especially considering that, according to the results of the 2022 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), the total fertility rate (TFR) among women in reproductive years, or those aged 15 to 49, declined from 2.7 children in 2017 to 1.9 children in 2022.
The NDHS report, which is detailed in a story from the state-run Philippine News Agency, also says that the TFR in the Philippines has been declining steadily over time, from 4.1 in 1993 to just 1.9 last year.
Still, that does little to allay concerns about pregnancies occurring for minors. The NDHS report found that five percent of all women aged 15 to 19 have been pregnant. The highest rate of teenage pregnancy was recorded in Northern Mindanao (11 percent) followed by Davao (eight percent), while the lowest rate, which was at two percent, were seen in the Ilocos and Bicol regions.
The PNA report quoted PopCom executive director Lisa Grace Bersales as saying that, despite the decline in teenage pregnancies, "one teenage pregnancy is one too much." She especially voiced concerns about the pregnancies within 10 to 14-year-olds.
"These are not teenage[rs], these are children," she said.
Studies also found that, for unmarried women aged 15 to 49 years old, only 24 percent use modern contraceptives compared to 42 percent married women, Bersales said.
According to the PNA report, the PopCom has already developed an action plan from 2023 to 2028 based on the NDHS data "with the objective of optimizing demographic opportunities and addressing remaining population issues and challenges so that we all citizens meet socio-economic dividend and have improved quality of life."
The plan's action areas include the continued promotion of family development through responsible parenthood and family planning; working on adolescent health and development; using lifecycle approaches to human development; inclusive development of the marginalized population, the poorer sector, the less educated, the IPs, the persons with disability, those that are in the basic sector; and integration of population in sectoral developments.
"The role of the commission is really to alert the different sectors in population development or in human capital information of the different nexus in their sector," Bersales said.