Underscoring the country’s high record of teenage pregnancy, several European governments have urged the Philippine government to step up its efforts on promoting a comprehensive and science-based sexual and reproductive education targeting the youth.

Annika Thumborg, Swedish ambassador to Manila, in a webinar early this week, expressed concern about the link between the increase of teenage pregnancy cases in the country to the pandemic.

She added that the current weakness in providing reproductive services puts women’s lives at risk.

“[Youth] must have access to comprehensive science-based sexual and reproductive education, access to contraception, and be able to ask questions about sex without judgment or discrimination. To help them make a decision when and how many,” Thumborg said.

She added that sexual education prevents unwanted pregnancy and lowers dropouts rates in school.

The webinar was held Tuesday by advocacy groups Spark Philippines, ChildFund Philippines, Twitter, and Roots of Health, with support from the Swedish embassy. It was hosted by actress Cristine Reyes.

Saskia De Lang, Ambassador for the Kingdom of Netherlands to the Philippines, lauded the country’s that teenage pregnancy is a national priority the promotion of a “whole of government approach” to the problem.

She noted that the Philippines has “alarming data” of 495 live birth a day among young people between 10 and 19 years old.

“I share the concern behind the growing numbers. Knowledge about sex is crucial for people. Preventing unwanted pregnancy is not about the use of contraceptives but also [access] to comprehensive sexual education,” De Lang said.

Globally, around 800 women die each day during childbirth, while 20 million women suffer from some form of disability due to teenage pregnancy and other related complications. An estimated 215 million women have unmet needs for contraception.

Amina Swanepoel, executive director of Roots of Health (Ugat ng Kalusugan), a non-government organization focusing on reproductive health observed that sex education remains a challenge in the country.

“It is a societal issue. The lack of policy can really be seen as a form of structural violence,” Swanepoel said.

Current Philippine data indicate that about 20 percent of Palawan births are attributed to adolescent pregnancies. The Commission on Population (POPCOM) has also noted that Palawan has the highest number of teenage pregnancy cases in the MIMAROPA region.