The Covid19 pandemic is expected to bring about 214,000 new babies this year, according to the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund.
The coronavirus, apart from its impact on health and employment, has also affected the country’s reproductive health program, or the Reproductive Health Law (RHL), which aimed at promoting sex education and contraception availability among the poor.
“We will lose the entire four years that we have been working on the program,” said Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom). “We will have more unplanned pregnancies. Right now it’s at a rate of three out of every 10 [that] are unplanned; it could be as high as probably half of the pregnancies next year unplanned, in the worst-case scenarios.”
Hospitals, such as Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, are bracing themselves for a “baby boom”, despite already it hitting its ceiling for capacity. Previously, Covid19 had caused the hospital to temporarily close its door after seven of its residents and one nurse tested positive.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s socioeconomic secretary Ernesto Pernia said that P2 billion a year is necessary to “fully implement the population program, but the budget provided is only around half a billion pesos— only a quarter of what is needed.
He added that Duterte was an advocate of family planning but was “more focused on drugs and corruption.”
The RHL had also been sued by groups backing the Catholic Church, which strongly opposes contraceptive methods—thus keeping the emergency contraceptive pill and minors’ access to family planning measures illegal.
Even before the pandemic, the Philippines has logged 1.7 million births per year, and has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in Southeast Asia. PopCom predicts this figure to rise by 20% during the health crisis.