Rural midwife Armi Mariano is on a mission: reduce the number of teenage pregnancies in her barangay (village) in Laguna province. Forty years in the profession, and it still unsettles her that girls, many of whom even behave like babies themselves, are about to have children of their own.

So Mariano resolved to be firm and insist that once a girl from her community has had menarche, she will be on some form of contraception and will be educated about family planning, whether she likes it or not.

The veteran midwife wants to cut the incidence of 15- or 16-year-old girls coming to her in the middle of the night because the baby’s head is ready to pop out and Mariano has no choice but to deliver the newborn.

Even more disturbing are young girls, who have yet to turn 18 but already with two children, whose fathers take no responsibility for their action.

For her efforts, and those of the team she works with in her barangay, Mariano is proud that they have been making significant gains where family planning is concerned. And while there are still young girls getting pregnant today, it is slowly becoming less prevalent, at least in their community.

In 2013, a National Demographic and Health Survey showed that one in 10 Filipino girls aged between 15 and 19 are already mothers or were pregnant with their first child.

As the Philippines joined in the observance of World Population Day 2017 last July 11, the Philippine Commission on Population (POPCOM) declared that the use of modern Family Planning is a way to empower women, and achieve health and economic gains.

“Investing in Family Planning is investing in the health and rights of women and couples worldwide. These investments yield economic gains that can propel a country development forward,” said POPCOM Executive Director Dr Juan Antonio A. Perez III in a statement.

As part of its activities, POPCOM launched a health caravan for 600 residents of Barangay Commonwealth in Quezon City, which not only provided population-related services such as family planning, but likewise offered HIV screening, laboratory testing, and free medicines.

For its family planning education, the commission strongly advocated for birth spacing of 3 to 5 years, while helping couples understand that family planning is giving them the choice of how many children to have, timing their births and the use of safe and effective methods to achieve these.

Modern Family Planning as a means to empower women and achieve health and economic gains
Modern Family Planning as a means to empower women and achieve health and economic gains

Klaus Beck, Country Representative to the Philippines from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) noted that it is the best time for the country to take action on responsible parenthood while pointing out that teenage pregnancy remains a problem.

The 2013 NDHS detailed that one in five poor married women and one in four in uneducated married women may not be using modern family planning.

Conversely, women who use modern family planning methods are likelier to participate in decision making within the family.

Moreover, POPCOM wants the public to understand that with family planning, mothers will have time to recuperate, have more time to attend to her children’s needs and plan proper spacing in between children.

On the other hand, fathers will have more time for their family and save financially, so that their children will be better cared for and be better educated.

POPCOM stressed that by the end of 2017, the country will reach a population of 105.75 million Filipinos. The number is not necessarily good or bad, but its impact will hinge on the country’s ability to provide services to these people.

The commission is hoping that there will at least be four million new Filipino users - women and men - of modern family planning methods every year.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Executive Order No. 12 ordering the “zero unmet need for modern family planning” for people by 2018 and beyond. It calls for the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law.

However, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in June 2015 - and affirmed last May - on two implant products remains in force and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been likewise prohibited from registering and recertifying contraceptives. MIMS

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