A non-government organization has raised concerns over the recorded high cases of teenage pregnancy in Puerto Princesa City.
Marcus Swanepoel, Director of Finance and Operations of Roots of Health, cited reports noting that in 2016, 29 percent of pregnancy cases involved teenagers.
“To put that into perspective, the national average is 20%. In Puerto in 2012 the number of teen pregnancies was 21%, in 2015 it was 25%. So it’s clear that it is increasing steadily,” Swanepoel explained.
Swanepoel said a survey their organization conducted among Puerto Princesa youth showed that teenage boys usually have sex at an earlier age than girls.
He added that indigenous communities who practice fixed marriage as part of their culture recorded cases of early pregnancy.
“Some of these births are included in the teenage pregnancy data but there are some who give birth at home who are likely not counted,” said Swanepoel.
According to Swanepoel, cases of broken families are also among the factors contributing to teenage pregnancy.
“There are some families who split up, sometimes multiple times and this puts teenage girls more at risk. Sometimes they get boyfriends that are much older than they for financial assistance. They don’t have a stable home life and end up living with older men who are not related to them in houses with little privacy,” he said.
He also said that most teenage pregnancies are a result of sexual misinformation.
“Teenagers usually have a misconception about sex, such as jumping after sex will not cause pregnancy or drinking coke and cortal with prevent conception. There [are] just so many myths,” said Swanepoel.
He said that stigma from society has also become among the contributing factors in the hike of teenage pregnancy cases.
“Young people tell us that they don’t access health services because when they walk into the barangay health centers, everyone will talk about them. There is a stigma surrounding sex. Young people don’t want to be judged, so they don’t access services that are freely available to older people,” said Swanepoel.
He said the Roots of Health aims to prevent teenage pregnancy in the province by training youth advocates who will mentor, counsel and give advice to their fellow youth. The organization also provides Sex Education in high schools across the province. Last year they taught over 14,000 high school students.
“We train youth advocates who will give advice and do counseling on teens in a non-judgmental way,” he said. “If there are concerns we encourage young people to talk with one of our nurses so that they can get accurate information.”
The Roots of Health also has an online page called ‘Usapang K’ that gives advice and serves as a hub for information on teenage pregnancy and other reproductive health issues.
Maileen Sendaydiego, Program Officer of the City Population Commission, says that their agency also seeks to prevent teenage pregnancy through their Adulthood and Youth Development program, and through their online campaign “U4U” that gives advice to teens engaging in sexual intercourse.
“Hindi nila kelangan magtanong-tanong kung saan-saan, through this online page they can seek professional advice,” said Sendaydiego.
Sendaydiego added that the Popcom aims to give brighter future to the teenagers and prepare them for responsible parenthood.