16 Jan 2016
  • Government has existing assistance programs for pensioners, says Malacanang
  • Malacanang defends anti-poverty efforts, says CCT’s impact starting to be felt

Government has existing assistance programs for pensioners, says Malacanang
Countering criticisms alleging the administration lacks compassion to senior citizens for vetoing the Social Security System (SSS) pension hike, a Palace official said the Aquino government is actually carrying out a number of measures that uplift the lives of the pensioners.

In a radio interview on Saturday, Undersecretary Manolo Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) said the administration has many programs for senior citizens for the past five and a half years.

For instance, the government imposed mandatory PhilHealth coverage for all senior citizens in June last year with more than 4.8 million senior citizens being enlisted under the healthcare program.

This is done by amending the 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act signed by President Aquino in 2014.

Another form of assistance is for indigent senior citizens who received “augmented social pension,” Quezon told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

“Ang naging batayan nito ay ang 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens Act na pinirmahan noong Pebrero 2010,” he noted.

“Kasama sa batas na ito ang isang probisyon na dagdagan ang pondo para sa medical needs ng mga indigent senior citizens sa paraan ng P500 monthly pension.”

From 2011 to May 2015, some 937,556 senior citizens are under the social pension program, he said.

Also, the government adjusted the age limit for senior citizens to qualify for indigent ‘senior citizens’ pension. Quezon said that from 2011 to 2014, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) prioritized senior citizens aged 77 years and above.

And in 2015, seniors citizens with ages from 65 years old and above qualified under the program. In that year alone, Quezon said 760,736 indigent senior citizens were served by the government.

Also, SSS pension increased by five percent on May 31, 2014.

The SSS also increased the funeral benefits from a fixed amount of P20,000 to a maximum amount of P40,000 depending on the number of contributions and average monthly salary credit as of August 2014.

SSS also put up a voluntary provident fund, called the Personal Equity and Savings Option (PESO) fund for SSS members to provide more avenues for retirement security.

And, together with the national government, the SSS opened a P7-billion educational assistance loan program that started in 2012. And, as of June 2015, over P3.1-billion worth of loans have been disbursed for 67,299 qualified student beneficiaries, Quezon explained.

To lessen the burden for pensioners, SSS implemented two penalty condonation programs in 2011 and 2012 allowing delinquent beneficiaries to once again join the SSS.

Some 406,421 delinquent member borrowers benefitted from this program.

Quezon defended the President after he vetoed the proposal asking for P2,000 across-the-board increase in SSS pension saying the President did the right decision by choosing to prolong the life of the SSS fund.

“I think we should understand the President’s reasoning in doing this. Lahat naman ng bumabayad ng SSS ay mga miyembro nito at may obligasyon ang pondo na mabayaran sila at pati ang mga benepisyo,” he said. PND (as)

Malacanang defends anti-poverty efforts, says CCT’s impact starting to be felt
The Palace defended its anti-poverty program saying that although there is still poverty in the country, the number of poor people continue to decline as a result of government social support efforts.

Opposition party Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) has scored the administration for its failure to create a trickle-down effect on poor Filipinos amid the economic growth that the country has been experiencing.

Citing the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey, the NPC said there are around 11.2 million families remained poor in the last quarter of 2015, while some 7.4 million Filipinos rated themselves food-poor.

As a response, Usec. Manolo Quezon of the PCDSPO said: “Well, I think ang simpleng sagot lang dito is you can look at the glass as half-empty or half-full. Lahat tayo umaamin na mayroong kahirapan sa ating bayan.”

“The question is tuloy-tuloy ba ang pag-angat ng mga kababayan natin? As I mentioned this morning sa ating opening statement, we’ve been able to show that 4.4 million households are benefiting from CCT and almost 1.55 million of them have been lifted out of poverty, and that’s just a preliminary estimate.”

Quezon cited in an interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan the vicinity of the UP Town Center, which he said, is now part of a growing economy with so many restaurants.

He said that if the people view the situation as half-full, it will encourage to dream even higher and work even harder to do even more, as always mentioned by the President.

“Because after all ang nakasalalay dito is mga buhay ng ating mga kababayan and we all have to be working to make things better for them,”

Asked to comment about the need to institutionalize the CCT so that it will be implemented by the succeeding administrations, Quezon said CCT is an existing government program.

Some social observers are even saying that it would be a wrong move if the CCT is discontinued, he said adding the issue must be discussed thoroughly. PND (as)