TACLOBAN CITY – The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), World Vision Philippines, the regional office of the Department of Health and other national and local government agencies conducted a policy forum on reducing teenage pregnancy in the region.

Held at the Summit Hotel in Tacloban City, the forum was graced by KOICA Country Director Kim Eunsub, Leyte Governor Carlos Jericho Petilla, Eastern Samar Vice Governor Maria Caridad Sison-Goteesan, mayors from Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, and Leyte provinces, and national line-government agency officials.

The forum, which had a theme “Advancing Multi-Sectoral Policies to Reduce Teenage Pregnancy Cases in Eastern Visayas Region,” served as a venue to provide the current outlook of teenage pregnancy and foster multi-sectoral collaboration to address the multifaceted aspects of teenage pregnancy in Eastern Visayas.

The policy forum is part of the KOICA Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (KOICA MNCH) Project of KOICA and World Vision which aims to ensure healthy lives of mothers and infants/children to reduce maternal mortality rate in Eastern Visayas.

The program is implemented in 16 local government units in the region, namely, Basey, Marabut, Matuguinao, and San Jorge in Samar; Palapag, Laoang, Silvino Lobos, and Pambujan in Northern Samar; Quinapondan, Gen. MacArthur, Dolores, and Taft, Eastern Samar; Pastrana, Sta Fe, Tabon-tabon, and Tolosa, all in Leyte.

“Teenage pregnancy is something that is difficult to fix once it happens, and that is the reason why we have to address this,” Gov. Petilla said in his message during the forum.
He added that the provincial government is more than willing to collaborate with KOICA and World Vision to address this problem because it affects all sectors and members of a community.

“This is compounding health problem that really affect women especially younger girls whose body are not design to get pregnant at an early age,” Petilla stressed.

Matuguinao Mayor Aran Boller, for his part, said that the rural health unit in their municipality are implementing programs to inform the young girls of how getting pregnant early will have significant effect to their future.

Cases of teenage pregnancy in his municipality is not that high, he said but this still need to be address because its impact, both to the young mother and the local government unit.
“As local leaders, we should be aware of what should be done to address this problem because if this will be left unsolved, this will result to unemployment and lack of education among young mothers,” Mayor Boller said.

The challenges in the delivery of the teenage pregnancy programs at regional and LGU level were also discussed by representatives from the regional offices of the Department of Health, Commission on Population and Development, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine National Police, National Nutrition Council and the Department of Education.

World Vision Development Foundation, Inc., Director for Strategy Management, Impact and Learning Vanessa Retuerma said that through the forum they wanted to thresh out a thorough study what are the factors that really contribute to the high teenage pregnancy in this region.

“We have so many existing laws that also wanted to address the teenage pregnancy. For one we have the Reproductive Health Law, but the policy and the research shows that there is a certain gap in terms of implementation,” Retuerma said.

“To fill in that gap in terms of implementing that law specifically from the national and most importantly in the local because that’s usually where the challenges are how to implement a national law,” she added.

The program concluded with the signing of pledge and commitment of the municipal and provincial local government units to address the problem of teenage pregnancy in the region.