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Philippine bishops and local officials argue over teen pregnancies

Bishops' opposition to sex education blamed for alarming rise
Philippine bishops and local officials argue over teen pregnancies

Teenage girls work as entertainers in a red light district in Angeles City, north of Manila. (Photo by Jimmy Domingo)

Published: May 27, 2014 07:59 AM GMT
Updated: May 26, 2014 09:56 PM GMT

Government officials in Davao are blaming Catholic bishops for an alarming rise in the number of teenage pregnancies in the southern Philippine city.

Jeff Fuentes, chief of the city's population office, says a local government sex education program in schools to combat teen pregnancies was shot down as a result of opposition from the bishops.

"The program was not launched because schools turned it down after criticism from the bishops," Fuentes told ucanews.com on Tuesday.

The teenage pregnancy rate in Davao City has been growing by 2.3 percent every year since 2007, he said.

“This is very alarming,” said Fuentes, adding that Davao City now has the fifth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

In 2013, some 7,000 cases were recorded in the city.

The head of the bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Family and Life dismissed the accusation.

"Could it be the overexposure of the young to physical intimacy that’s driving the rise of teenage pregnancy?" Fr Melvin Castro said to ucanews.com.

He added that the government has been promoting contraceptive use since the 1980s despite long standing opposition from the bishops. 

"Contraceptives are available even in convenience stores," the priest said.

The Church says the number of teenage pregnancies is also rising nationwide, pointing to a recent study on the issue which reported a growing number of Filipino youths were engaging in premarital sex.

The study released last month by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the Demographic Research Development Foundation revealed that one in every 10 Filipino girls aged 15 to 19 years old is already a mother.

The study also revealed that 2.6 percent of Filipino girls in the same age group are already pregnant with her first child, while 13.6 percent have begun childbearing.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund last year reported that teenage pregnancy in the Philippines has increased by 70 percent within 10 years since 1999 when 114,205 births were registered to 195,662 in 2009.

"It is alarming," said Fr Conegundo Garganta, head of the Episcopal Commission on Youth of the Catholic bishops' conference.

"It should call for all sectors of society to a coordinated action of addressing this condition," he said.

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