Assessment of RH Law implementation reveals hope for adolescent sexuality and reproductive health in the Philippines

Invest in young people’s health, implement RPRH Law, give young people access to services.

These calls were delivered by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and other stakeholders during a forum called “Invest in young people’s health, build a better future” in which PLCPD disseminated the results of an independent assessment of the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law with focus on adolescent sexuality and reproductive health.

Building on the Monitoring and Evaluation framework of the National Implementation Team for the RPRH Law, which looks at the law’s implementation along five key results areas, PLCPD’s assessment focused on adolescent sexuality and reproductive health (ASRH) using the following evaluation measures: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability. The study was conducted by PLCPD to provide evidence for policymakers both in the executive and legislative departments in the context of the organization’s call for the full implementation of the RPRH Law and for congressional review and oversight five years since its enactment in December 2012.

The results of the assessment reveal that given the current limitations of the law, which bars minors’ access to services without written parental consent, the ongoing efforts of key government agencies and civil society organizations are aligned with how the law envisions to address adolescent reproductive health concerns, and they are effective and sustainable, although a comprehensive framework or a single program for adolescent sexuality and reproductive health, which is not existing today, would make these efforts more effective, efficient, and sustainable. This explains why the progress, although positive, has been slow.

According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), 8.6% of women 15-19 years old have begun child bearing, decreasing by 1.5 since the 2013 NDHS. The Philippines still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies among Southeast Asian countries. In addition, HIV is considered “a youth epidemic” in the country, with 31% of documented cases in 2017 from the 15-24 year old age range. It is hoped that the gains, especially in policy, ushered by the enactment of RPRH Law would help improve this situation.

“We call on the government and policymakers to prioritize the need of adolescents and young people, the next generation. We believe that all progress in the implementation of the RPRH Law would mean nothing if we continue to see increasing teenage pregnancies and HIV cases among young people. We hope that the Department of Education will start implementing its comprehensive sexuality education soon, and that the bills addressing the gaps of the current law will be enacted,” said Romeo Dongeto, executive director of PLCPD.

Currently, there are bills filed in both houses of Congress that seek to address teenage pregnancies by creating a comprehensive government program that promotes adolescent health. Meanwhile, the bills amending the AIDS Prevention and Control Act to institutionalize comprehensive program for HIV prevention, treatment care and support, have been approved by both houses of Congress on 3rd and Final Reading.