The numbers are disconcerting. In 2014, there were 209,872 teenage pregnancies recorded in the Philippines and it is projected to continue with the upward trend. Of the 28 HIV-AIDS cases reported daily, 24 are from the 15 to 24 age group. And according to the Young Adult Fertility Study (YAFS), early sexual initiation among girls before they turn 18 is a primary factor leading to early pregnancies.

Teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and sexual and domestic abuse are among the top population development concerns in the Philippines. The Commission on Population, under the Department of Health, sees Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) as an effective means to counteract these problems.

POPCOM strongly believes CSE is "an antidote to the pressing early childbearing situation."

In a press release sent to MIMS, the commission explained CSE as "an instructional method where young Filipinos gain knowledge, attitude, skills, and values to make appropriate and healthy choices in their sexual behaviours."

By United Nations Population Fund’s (UNPF) definition, CSE is gender-focused, rights-based, and is age-appropriate thus the necessity to teach it over several years according to what is appropriate to the listeners’ ages.

CSE includes scientifically accurate information about human development, anatomy and reproductive health, and information on contraception.

Based on the data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon (Calabarzon region) collectively recorded 28,605 cases of teen pregnancies, with Metro Manila coming in second with 26,606 followed by Central Luzon with 24,729 cases.

Other than early sexual initiation, the YAFS also pointed to casual sex, nonromantic regular sexual relationship, extramarital sex, smoking, liquor and drug abuse, and misuse of technology as factors leading to sexual activities and possible teenage pregnancy.

Implementing CSE nationwide is expected to halt the upswing trend of early pregnancies, contracting STIs including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and domestic violence, wrote the commission. CSE will have effects on a girl’s education and economic condition which will allow her to lead herself and family to a better future.  

A study by health economist Alejandro N Herrin showed that early childbearing reduces a girl’s chances of finishing high school, affecting her capability to find jobs which pay standard wages.

“Lifetime wage earnings of 18 to 19 year old Filipinas foregone due to early pregnancies is estimated to be somewhere at between 24 billion to 42 billion, with a statistical mean of 33 billion,” according to the National Demographic and Health Survey of 2013 and Labor Force, Family Incomes and Expenditure Surveys of 2012.

It has been shown that there is a wide gap in income between a girl who got pregnant and did not finish high school and a girl who finished high school and did not get pregnant - with the former making just 46 pesos per day compared to the 362 pesos earned by the latter.

In the meantime, POPCOM is continuing to address the country’s early childbearing situation through the utilization of adolescent health and development initiatives such as Youth-for-Youth (U4U), Teen Trail Events, and the Interactive Voice Response System – all information sources.

Finally, the commission noted that CSE is a “salient feature of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 that is pending full implementation before the Supreme Court.” MIMS

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