MANILA, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines is grappling with a growing number of teenage pregnancies, with 530 teenagers reportedly giving birth daily as of 2017, a congresswoman warned on Wednesday.
Philippine senator Risa Hontiveros, also the chair of the senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, cited government reports as saying that in the same year, around 2,000 of the 196,409 teenage pregnancies nationwide involved girls aged 10 to 14.
"These are not teenage pregnancies anymore. These are childhood pregnancies," Hontiveros said in a statement.
She added that "many of these kids have not even finished the stages of puberty, but are now confronted with the painful reality that they will become teen mothers and fathers."
"Many parents still consider them as their babies. Yet, our babies are having babies of their own. This is extremely alarming," Hontiveros said.
She highlighted the health risks of teenage pregnancy, stating that it has a mortality rate two to five times higher than adults. The neonatal death rate of babies born to young mothers are three times higher than that of babies born to mothers aged 25 to 29.
Hontiveros is now pushing for the passage of bills to address the country's problem with teenage pregnancy.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier said that teenage pregnancy has become a "national social emergency," noting that adolescent birth rates over the past decade had hovered at a level that merited "national concern."
Pernia stressed the need to tackle the problem head-on, warning it could trap a large cross-section of families in perpetual cycle of "intergenerational poverty."
The economic cost alone for teenage women is staggering, Pernia said, adding that between 24 billion pesos (roughly 464 million U.S. dollars) and 42 billion pesos (roughly 812 million U.S. dollars) of the lifetime earnings of women in the country had lost to early childbearing.
"This issue affects the heart of the development of our country as the state of our young people today affects the state of our country's future," Pernia said.