Philippines: Arroyo Asks SSS to Hike Pensions By 10%

Apr. 19, 2007

MANILA — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo asked the Social Security System (SSS), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, to once again increase the pension of SSS members and beneficiaries by 10 percent.

Speaking at the agencys 2nd National Account Officers (AO) convention at the Great Eastern Hotel in Quezon City, the President said the proposed increase comes on the heels of an earlier 10 percent raise that she had also requested last September.

“The fiscal viability on the part of the SSS put the Philippines on the path to permanent economic growth,” she said, stressing that the country over the past six years has enjoyed 24 quarters of continuous economic growth under her administration.

The President praised SSS president and chief operating officer Corazon dela Paz for turning the agency around during the last six years via “disciplined financial reforms.”

Because Dela Paz granted no behest loans nor investments, the President explained, the actuarial life of the SSS has so far been extended from 2015 to 2038.

She lauded the SSS Account Officers who are holding their three-day second national convention starting today, saying they are “the best and brightest in the SSS.” She cited their good collection rate which she equated with good governance.

“Even if we do not increase contributions by 10 percent, we can increase benefits by 10 percent, thus contributing in the effort to cover the working class,” she said.

The President also lauded the employers confederation, which she dubbed as patriotic organizations for shouldering employes contributions.

She pointed to the emerging social crisis in the Asian region, saying that social services are “in dire straits in other countries,” but that the Philippines is “sailing steady on an even keel.”

“We have broken loose from a history of lethargy; it is time that everybody knows about these SSS reforms,” the President enthused.

With better collection of SSS contributions, the Chief Executive said it is now time to crack down on those cheating on SSS remittances.

“I ask you Let us continue to work and sustain the positive momentum as we are consolidating our gains in revenue, (so that we can pour more funds for) health, education, training, new bridges Let us focus on the countrys overall economic health Our external debt has been declining at a rapid rate,” she pointed out.

She recalled her May 1, 2006 condonation of some 1.7 million delinquent SSS accounts, thus activating once again some 200,000 SSS accounts whose status has since been brought to good standing.

“Because of that, the SSS was able to increase pensions last September by 10 percent, benefiting one million members. And as the SSS celebrates its 50th anniversary, I request the SSS Board to give the Filipino people another 10-percent increase in pension benefits,” the President enthused.

To make this possible, the President asked the SSS to focus on increasing the coverage of the SSS among overseas contract workers, especially those working in the United States, and to also cover self-employed workers, and even those who are in the underground economy; and to increase its market by identifying new SMEs (small and medium enterprises).

The President said the SSS has since broadened its services, and increased its impact on the poor, especially via housing loans which mean a lot to the said sector. She pointed out that housing loan beneficiaries are “enjoying the lowest single-digit interest rates,” with prime accounts charging a low of three percent. (OPS)

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