Voting 232-0, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading House Bill (HB) 8910, which aims to prevent teenage pregnancies and institutionalize social protection for adolescent parents and their children.

The bill establishes the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Inter-Agency Council (APPIAC), which shall be responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies and programs that shall provide family-oriented, adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive health programs, centered on the prevention, counseling and post-delivery care of adolescent pregnancy.

It will consist of the Population Commission executive director as chairperson with the executive director of the Council for the Welfare of Children as co-chairperson.

Its members will be senior officials (at least undersecretary) of the departments of health, education, social welfare, and the interior and local government, the Commission on Higher Education, the Philippine Commission on Women, the National Youth Commission, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; chairpersons of the leagues of provinces, cities and towns; two representatives of women’s rights groups; one adolescent representative; and one youth representative.

The council’s principal mandate is to develop and implement a national action plan for the prevention of teenage pregnancies.

It shall recommend relevant legislative and administrative measures and shall create regional, provincial, city and municipal counterparts to ensure the proper implementation of its action plan and programs.

The bill also defines the roles and duties of each participating department and agency.

It likewise mandates the establishment of school- or community-based functional local centers for adolescent health and development in all municipalities and cities in the country.

HB 8910 provides for the development of community-based and culturally-sensitive, age- and developmentally-appropriate comprehensive adolescent sexuality education (CASE) through community-based information, education and communication programs for all adolescents.

It provides for the development and implementation of a sustained national program on the prevention of adolescent pregnancy using various types of media, including online platforms, to maximize dissemination to adolescents.

The bill also defines the circumstances where adolescents are allowed access to reproductive health services.

It ensures the provision of social protection services against violence for adolescents, especially for girls, which shall include psychological care, counseling and administration of psychological or psychiatric tests; referral to medico-legal examination; legal services; and referral or transfer to any DSWD or local government unit, or any registered and licensed care facility for temporary shelter or protective custody.

A joint congressional oversight committee will be formed to oversee the implementation of the proposed Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act.

Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the bill, lauded the overwhelming support of the House in its passage of HB 8910.

“Legislating a comprehensive law on preventing adolescent pregnancy is imperative to institutionalize policies and strategies on eliminating or mitigating adolescent pregnancy, and extend social protection to adolescent parents and their children,” Lagman, a staunch reproductive health and women’s rights advocate, said in his explanation of the affirmative vote.

He noted that adolescent mothers should be relics of the very distant past when early childbearing was the norm.

“Due to early pregnancy, many young girls fail to finish basic education, lack adequate skills for remunerative work, and are economically vulnerable, thus perpetuating inter-generational poverty,” Lagman said. “If we are to truly uplift the lives of women, we must start by improving the future of young girls.”

Investment competitiveness
Meanwhile, the House Committee on Ways and Means approved a measure that would help boost the Philippine stock market and investment competitiveness.

During the hearing, the panel approved the unnumbered substitute bill to HB 8958, or the proposed “Capital Markets Efficiency Promotion Act”, which seeks to amend the National Internal Revenue Code.

One of the features of the approved proposal is the immediate reduction of the stock transaction tax from 0.6 percent to 0.1 percent.

Committee chair Joey Salceda, who also authored bill, said the proposed reduction of stock transaction tax would help boost the country’s investment competitiveness.

“The measure will help boost the Philippine stock market, which has stagnated at the expense of pensioners, small investors, and others whose incomes rely on these passive investments,” Salceda said.

The bill also proposes the reduction of the tax on dividends to foreign non-residents from 25 percent to 10 percent.

The expansion of the definition of shares of stocks to include options, derivatives, and short-selling, was made upon the proposal of the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Salceda said the proposed reform would result in a revenue loss of PHP9.825 billion but could increase pension assets in the Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System alone by at least PHP72.9 billion. (PNA)