UNDERSECRETARY Juan Antonio Perez III, executive director of the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom), remained positive that the government can bring down the fertility rate of the Filipino women and lessen the prevalence of unwanted pregnancy despite the various challenges faced by the country’s population program.
From the current 2.7 fertility rate, the National Government is working on lowering it to 2.1.
“Filipino women only wanted to have two children but they end up having almost three,” said Perez as he goes around the country to push for the population program in connection with the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022.
The government’s development plan aims to harness the “demographic window” wherein “majority of the population is young and in good health, and has the right skill set to be highly productive.”
“This, in effect, will reduce poverty and achieve inclusive growth in the medium and long term goal,” the official said.
The challenges faced by the government in the implementation of the population program include “low acceptance and accessibility of family planning services particularly among poor couples and individuals, inadequate budgetary support, low coverage of promotional and demand generation activities, inadequate commodities and family planning service providers and workers especially in the rural and remote areas and slow impact to social, economic and development.”
Perez admitted that the poorest among Filipinos are those who have more children.
As the commission turned 50 years old, it has faced “continuing challenges, opportunities and milestones” in improving the quality of life of the 108.1 million Filipinos.
The population of the country in 1969 was 34.8 million.
According to Perez, Filipinos have 4.3 children when they only want 2.9 children.
In its April 2019 report, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said the county’s population increased by 1.6 percent annually from 2010 to 2019.
The average annual rate is faster than India with 1.2 percent, China with 0.5 percent, and even the United States with 0.7 percent.
“Despite remarkable achievements in the past five decades, much more must be done to break the barriers that prevent women, men and couples from fully exercising their reproductive rights and choices,” the UNFPA said.
As the world youth population (ages 15 to 24) is projected to rise to 1.4 billion in 2050 from the current 1.2 billion, the commission is also facing another challenge in educating young Filipinos on the government’s population program.
“Teenage pregnancy in the Philippines is on the rise. In fact, the data derived from the certificates of live births submitted by the Local Civil Registry office from 2011 to 2014 show that about one in every 10 women of child bearing age was a teenager, and there were 24 babies born every hour by teenage mother,” said Reyan Arinto, information officer of the commission in Eastern Visayas.
“Thus, we bring the orientation and the information drive directly to our schools where many teenagers already start to engage into sexual activities and prevent them from doing such and in one way or another delay their sexual debut,” Arinto added.
The Filipino youth population comprised of about 20.1 million, half of which are adolescents aged 15-19 sailing for adulthood in the next few years, the commission said.
According to Perez, it is “crucial” that youth be given quality information and services to realize their potentials.
Citing the 2015 family Income and Expenditure Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority, 21.6 percent or almost one fourth of the country’s population is living below poverty threshold.
Population control has big impact on health and well-being among the youth, Arinto said as they pushed for their various orientation activities on adolescent sexuality and reproductive health in schools and villages.
To counter the problem, the commission launched the Information and Service Delivery Network for Adolescents and teen centers across the country.
Using a multi-agency approach and partnership with private partners, the establishment of the centers creates linkages to make adolescent information services be ready and available for the young people who would seek for it.
The center has counselling, medical and dental care, and reproductive health services, Arinto said.
“Family planning plays a crucial role in reducing poverty as it enables couples to plan and invest in their children better. The government has to make sure that the country’s population growth is well managed and that programs are aligned with the development plans,” added Elnora Pulma, the commission’s regional director in Eastern Visayas.
Citing that the family and population management are critical component in the socio-economic agenda, President Rodrigo Duterte now placed the Popcom as new attachment to National Economic Development Authority to “carry out the full and intensified implementation of the national program on population and family planning.”
The plan has targeted outcome of zero unmet need for modern family planning method, modern contraceptive prevalence rate of 65 percent, increase use of Family Planning method among males, zero gap between actual and wanted fertility, and adolescent birthrate of 40 per 1,000 adolescent women (15-19 years old) to attain reduced teenage pregnancy. (SunStar Philippines)