The increasing rate of adolescent births, HIV/AIDS, suicide cases, violence and abuse, mental health concerns and other daunting adolescent-related risks have prompted both the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) and the Department of Education to further strengthen the adolescent health program in the region through aMemorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on January 21, 2021 at the DepEd Regional Office I, City of San Fernando, La Union.
The onset of the Covid-19 has triggered and posed serious threats on adolescents’ health and welfare which undermine their opportunities to fully grow, develop and enjoy their adolescence.
This year, it was projected by the UP Population Institution (UPPI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), that an estimated extra 214, 000 unplanned babies are to be born and more than 40% increase in unintended pregnancies among females aged 15 to 49 due to disrupted access to reproductive health services brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), Region 1 ranked 4th with the highest adolescent birth rate in the whole country following Regions XI, X and XII. It was based on this survey that ‘teenage pregnancy’ has become a national health emergency because more and more young people aged 10-14, particularly those who are living in the rural areas, have contributed to the continuing spike of adolescent births.
Present in the MOU signing were POPCOM Regional Director Erma R. Yapit, Planning Officer IV/ARD Designate Wilma E. Ulpindo, Information Officer III Kristine Diane Oineza-Padilla, Information Officer II Maria Cristina F. Martinez, DepEd Regional Director Tolentino G. Aquino, OIC-Asst. Regional Director Ronald Castillo, Dentist III/PopDevEd Focal Dr. Marjorie Pudin, and Project Development Officer IV Darius C. Nieto.Form No. PR-IMCD-FM003 Version No. 01 Effective: March 1, 2018
Moreover, the pandemic has also magnified online sexual exploitations where two in 10 children are victims of trafficking and exploitation; and one in every 5 children aged 13 to 17 experienced sexual violence with family members as perpetrators, according to a study cited by the UNICEF Philippines.
In 2020, Region 1 has recorded a total of 89 suicide cases: 29 cases in Pangasinan; 26 in Ilocos Norte; 23 in La Union; and 11 in Ilocos Sur. Most of the victims were male adults aged 20-59, according to the Department of Health-I.
Thus, the MOU forged between these two agencies will intensify the adolescent health programs in the region particularly in Pangasinan where most of these adolescent concerns occur. It intends to improve the policy and program environment at the local levels through the 14 DepEd Schools Divisions in the four provinces to ensure access information and services on adolescent sexuality and reproductive health with the hopes to reduce adolescent births and repeated pregnancy. Film disseminations, establishment of teen centers and conduct of capacity building activities through various platforms are some of the identified demand generation strategies to capacitate teachers, parents, learners and developmental partners.
The Understanding is anchored to the full implementation of the R.A 10354 or the RPRH Law which mandates various government agencies to protect and promote the right and welfare of every person particularly couples, adults, individuals, women, and adolescents’ care. Also, part of this fulfillment is the integration of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in the formal and non-formal educational systems where age and developmentally appropriate curriculum-based education are provided at all levels.
POPCOM and DepEd consider these young people as key potentials in the achievement of socioeconomic development and the demographic dividend. All these adolescent concerns are taken as regional priorities that urgently need immediate actions to develop responsible and empowered adolescents with desirable health behaviors that can lead to satisfying and quality life.