DAVAO CITY -- Davao Region ranks fifth among the country's 17 regions in teenage fertility as well as in the number of youths aged 15-24 who had accessed pornographic content through various reading and online materials.

The results have been gathered from the series of Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (Yafs) studies that have been conducted in 1982, 1994, 2002, and 2013 with particular focus on various sexual and non-sexual risk behaviors, teen pregnancy and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids) among the youth living in Southern Mindanao.

The recent study undertaken in 2013 by Prof. Grace T. Cruz and associate Prof. Maria Paz N. Marquez of the Demographic Research and Development Foundation of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (DRDF-UPPI) and conducted among 19,187 single and married young people from all sectors in the country, showed that the rate of teenage fertility in Davao, that is, the level of female youths aged 51-19 who have begun childbearing, has more than doubled from 7.9 percent in 2002 to 16.7 percent in 2013.

The results also revealed that the level of females aged 15-19 who are mothers increased by 7.8 percent from the recorded 5.8 percent in 2002.

The recorded level of teenage fertility is noted to have increased with age. Of the 960,000 youths in the region, nearly 42,000 teenage females have already borne children or were pregnant when the survey was conducted, the bulk of which were 19-year-old women. This was indicated by the sharp increase in the proportion of 19-year-old women who have begun childbearing, 34 percent as compared to the recorded 3.2 percent among 15-year-old mothers.

The recent trend of teenage fertility further showed that there is a high level of reported sexual behavior among technologically savvy teens, largely owing to the reality that their increased usage of information and communication technologies (ICT) such as cell phones and computers have also paved way to the rise of new forms of sexual activity.

"While further studies have yet to be conducted regarding the correlation between the increase of teenage fertility rate in the region and the usage of ICTs, we could infer from the data available that the teens' ease of access to this forms of technology has an implication on the increase of teenage sexual activities," Marquez said.

As of the 2013 Yafs data, nearly three in five youths have watched S-rated movies and videos, 79.1 percent among males and 40.4 percent among females, an increase of 4.4 percent from 54 percent in 2002, while a slight decline of 1.4 percent from the 37 percent recorded in 2002 among the proportion of youth who have read pornographic materials has been noted.

It was also noted that the youth were further engaged in other media-related sexual activities.

The 14.5 percent of the surveyed youth said they have visited websites with sexually-explicit content, one in five had sent or received sex videos through cell phones or Internet, eight in 10 had engaged in phone sex, four in 100 had sex with someone they met online or through text messages, and one in 100 said they have recorded their sexual activities.

Concern regarding the results of the study has been raised by various sectors within the region.

"The recent data from the study on the activities of our youth in the region is worrisome, considering that they are our human resources and are looked up to for the future development of our region," Mae Ester Guiamedel of the National Economic and Development Agency (Neda)-Davao said.

Similar sentiments have also been echoed by the region's Commission on Higher Education, Department of Education, Department of Health, and the National Youth Commission.

"It is necessary for our different agencies to collaborate in addressing the said issue," Guiamedel added.

To this end, the National Youth Commission has expressed its desire to disseminate the results of the Yafs to the youth in the region in cooperation with the Department of Education (Deped).

"We are looking forward to raising awareness among the students on the consequences of pre-marital sex as well as risky sexual behaviors through different symposia and advocacies in school," Deped Education Program Supervisor Dr. Marilyn Madraso said.

Meanwhile, the researchers are hoping that further studies will be made on the factors that have contributed to the increase in the level of risk behaviors of young people in Southern Mindanao while preparations are being made for the 5th Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality study. (Jeffer Joy R. Orteza, AdDU Intern)