The Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) on Wednesday revealed that lawmakers in the House of Representatives have scrapped a P73 million budget allotted to address teenage pregnancy in the country.

Popcom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III told the BusinessMirror that the funds that were scrapped included P50 million for Popcom; P20 million for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and P3 million for the National Council for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Perez said the funds were supposed to be pooled by the three agencies to deal with teenage pregnancies from a multi-sectoral perspective. However, no hearing was called to scrutinize the proposal leading the scrapping of the funds.

“We proposed a convergence budget for the social protection program for teen moms and their children. The DBM [Department of Budget and Management] was not able to act on these due to administrative issues, which DBM only recently clarified despite our submission. They asked us to appeal to the House Appropriations [Committee] instead,” Perez explained.

“We were supposed to have a technical budget hearing in June after our submission, but they never called for one. They decided on their own that there were deficiencies and disapproved of the submission,” he added.

Perez said if the funds will not be granted, Popcom, the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Youth Commission (NYC) would have to stretch their budgets in order to reach 166,000 teenage mothers and their children.

These agencies will also reach out to local government units (LGUs) to help them include social protection for teen mothers as part of the budgets of the Sangguniang Kabataan and various LGUs.

“Yes, Popcom in particular will provide support to them,” Perez, who is also the country’s undersecretary for Population and Development, said.

During the budget hearing of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), which is the head agency of the Popcom, Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo said teenage pregnancies have decreased. She presented data which showed teenage pregnancies reached 183,000 in 2018; 196,478 in 2017; and 203,085 in 2016.

During the plenary deliberations, Albay Rep. Jose Sarte Salceda who is the sponsor of the Neda budget said teenage pregnancies were at 180,000 in 2019. However, teenage pregnancies among younger children are on the rise.

Salceda said girls aged 10 to 14 years old delivered seven live births everyday as of 2019. Based on that estimate, there were 2,555 children born to children in that year.

Official government data showed babies born to adolescent mothers those younger than 20 years old reached 180,916 and was more than three times of babies sired by adolescent fathers at 52,734 based on the 2019 births statistics only released in January 2021.

Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data also showed that “high-risk” age of pregnancy covering the age group 17 years old and younger accounted for 3.7 percent of births and, notably, 35 years old and over accounting for 15.8 percent.

Childbearing in these age groups, PSA said, is more likely to have complications during pregnancy and labor that may result in higher morbidity and mortality to both mother and child.

About 10.7 percent of the births in 2019 were to mothers aged 15 to 19 years old, while around 16 percent were to mothers 35 years old and over. Moreover, the adolescent birth rate, or the number of births to women ages 15 to 19 per 1,000 women in that age group was 34 per 1,000 women in 2019.

The career and financial stability goals of women become more complicated with the birth of a child, especially when a child is born out of wedlock. Nearly a million or 917,242 births, representing 54.8 percent of all births in 2019, included children who were illegitimate.

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