The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) applauded the signing of Republic Act 11596, also known as “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage,” which makes it illegal to marry an adult and a minor.

POPCOM stated in a statement released Saturday that based on its meeting with the State of the World Population in 2021, Filipino girls are currently experiencing another type of “pandemic” of unplanned and unmanaged pregnancies owing to early marriage and abuse.

He also added that underage marriages expose girls to unexpected pregnancies, which will put unprepared families in a difficult situation and trap them into poverty.

“We have likewise noted that marriages and unions involving minor children diminish the bodily autonomy of girls, and are incompatible with basic human rights as enshrined in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the Philippines signed in 1948,” POPCOM Undersecretary Juan A. Perez III said.

“With the enactment of RA 11596, POPCOM is confident our Filipino children are better protected from abuse and exploitation, hence, enabling them to achieve their aspirations and potentials as the future leaders of our nation, and where hopes of our country’s brighter tomorrow rest upon,” Perez added.

In November of last year, the Senate passed the bill criminalizing child marriage on third and final reading. The measure was authored and sponsored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

“If we continue to allow child marriages, we are essentially robbing our youth of their right to a safe and nurturing childhood,” Hontiveros previously said.

With an estimated 726,000 children married off before their 18th birthday, the senator highlighted that the Philippines ranked 12th in absolute numbers.

Perez said that RA 11596 is a strategic policy that supports the Social Protection Program for Adolescent Mothers and their Children (SPPAMC) which POPCOM and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are mandated to develop and implement under the 2021 and 2022 General Appropriations Act.

Currently, the SPPAMC is being implemented on a pilot basis in order to protect mothers from the risks of early pregnancies.