City of Koronadal, South Cotabato – SOCCSKSARGEN region recorded high prevalence of adolescent pregnancy and birth rate according to the report of DOH XII during the 1st Quarter Regional Social Development Committee (RSDC) meeting on February 13, 2020 in Koronadal City. 

Adolescents refers to individuals with ages ranging from 10 to 19 years old.  Data from various national surveys show that 1 out of 7 of the total 15-19 year old Filipino women gets pregnant.  Others have health issues like HIV (3%), syphilis (0.8%), and depression (3%). The latter have shown tendencies of committing suicide.

Based on the DOH XII Family Health Services Information Survey (FHSIS), teen pregnancies in 2018 registered at 19.07%.    Of the recorded cases, 18.47% or a total of 23,981 pregnant women belong to 15-19 age group, while the remaining 0.6% or 770 are 10-14 year old.  General Santos City has the most number of adolescent pregnancies at around 9,000, and Cotabato Province at around 5,000.

On the other hand, FHSIS data also show that adolescent birth rate in 2019 was recorded at 10% or 10,917 adolescent women,  mostly belonging to 15-19 age group.  Each of the four provinces in Region XII has more than 2,000 adolescents that gave birth.  

Each province has a distinct feature relative to teen birth incidence.  In magnitude among those aged 15-19 years,  Cotabato Province is highest with a total of 2,611.  While among the 10-14 age group, Sultan Kudarat is highest with a total of 94 cases.  In terms of birth rate, Sarangani is highest at 15%, followed by South Cotabato at 12%.

Based on the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistical Authority, SOCCSKSARGEN Region ranked 3rd highest or marked 14.5% incidence of adolescent pregnancy among 15-19 year olds.   Davao Region ranked 1st at 17.9 percent followed by Northern Mindanao at 14.7 percent. 

This social problem requires a whole of government approach. It is worth noting that  some private sector organizations like the Mahintana Foundation, Incorporated (MFI) also help in addressing the problem. The MFI is an active partner of the Municipality of Polomolok in promoting adolescent health and nutrition in the area. The services they render include addressing mental health issues and the rising suicide cases among youths or students. 

On the government side, the DOH ensures mother and child health by strengthening their prenatal services and mandating birth delivery to be in the accredited facility attended by a medical practitioner.  The POPCOM on the other hand focuses its effort on the prevention side and strengthens its demand generation program through various advocacy activities.

Adolescents face complex issues and challenges which need concerted efforts of agencies concerned. This social issue could impede the nation’s goal of achieving demographic dividend.  Teen pregnancy may result to other social problems like students dropping out of school, poverty,  repeat pregnancies, child illness and death and a lot more that will lead to insecure old-age.  (Evie Arabis Cabulanan, NEDA XII-DRD)