Pregnant women line up for vaccination in Puerto Princesa. // File photo

The provincial board has given Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez permission to engage in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) in the area in order to mobilize resources and programs to fight increasing adolescent pregnancy rates in Palawan.

According to main proponent Maria Angela Sabando, once Alvarez enters the MOA, the provincial government may adapt POPCOM’s and the Department of Health’s (DOH) interventions and programs. The provincial board approved the authorizing resolution Tuesday.

“There is an urgent need for all government agencies at all levels to take action to reduce the incidence of early pregnancies among adolescents. Addressing these issues on the local level entails the comprehensive and full implementation of population programs, including, not only responsible parenthood and family planning, but also adolescent health and development,” Sabando said in a speech.

Sabando added that if signed, the provincial government can mobilize resources to strengthen the current administration’s gender and development (GAD) program that provides information dissemination for teens and support for teen mothers. It also authorizes the creation of a multi-sectoral task force specializing in reducing the number of teen pregnancies in Palawan.

The provincial board urged Governor Alvarez early this year to create a multi-sectoral task force that will address the issue of rising teen pregnancy rates in Palawan. Palawan has consistently been the province in MIMAROPA with the highest incidence of teen pregnancy, according to POPCOM data.

In a 2019 POPCOM study, it was found that there was an increase in pregnancies in the 10-14 age bracket, the youngest mother being 12 years old. In the same year, teen pregnancy was labeled as a national social emergency.

Similarly, the Palawan-based nonprofit Roots of Health (Ugat ng Kalusugan) also called for a multi-sectoral approach to combat teen pregnancy, which is attributed to lack of information and access to birth control. The organization also pointed out the lack of a comprehensive sexuality education plan in schools’ curricula all over the country.