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WATCH | Malacañang OKs P1,000 SSS pension hike
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATED W/VIDEO) MANILA, Philippines - The long wait is over for Social Security System (SSS) members as Malacañang cleared the way for a P1,000 increase in their monthly pension.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the pension hike, which will take effect this month, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella disclosed in a news conference.

At the same time, Abella announced an increase in the contribution rate of SSS members from 11 percent to 12.5 percent starting May 2017.

The peso value of the increase will range from P15 to P740.

The current SSS contribution rate of 11% of the monthly salary credit is being shared by the employer (7.37%) and the employee (3.63%).

"The increase in contribution is for investment reserves ... Without the additional contribution, it would be like dancing at the edge of the well," Amado Valdez, SSS chairperson said.

Valdez said the P1,000 pension hike is only the first tranche approved by the President. The next P1,000 increase would come in 2022, or earlier, in 2019 if the agency succeeds in carrying out "internal reforms," which include improving its collection efficiency and tracking down companies that are delinquent in remitting their employees’ contribution.

Emmanuel Dooc, SSS president and chief executive officer, said the agency has set aside funds for the P1,000 increase, but pointed out that, while its effectivity is in January, the actual release of the money could be delayed "because of some system requirements."

At present, there are over 30 million SSS members, including the 2.1 million pensioners.

Former Bayan Muna partylist congressman Neri Colmenares welcomed the P1,000 increase, saying it would be a big help to the country’s senior citizens, but said the state-run pension agency should improve its collection efficiency first before imposing a hike on the members’ contribution.

Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate said, "We know that the P2,000 hike is still very minimal for the required decent and livable pension. Yet, we hope that this would help our pensioners to somehow alleviate their hardships."

Both Colmenares and Zarate were authors of the P2,000 SSS pension hike bill in Congress, which was vetoed by then President Benigno Aquino III, citing that such increase could shorten the fund life of the agency.

"Salamat po, Tatay Digong." This was the statement of Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) Chair Terry Ridon, describing the move as a social justice measure aimed squarely at providing immediate economic relief to millions of pensioners beset with mounting medical and monthly bills.

"Beyond fulfilling an election promise, the President approved the pension hike because government wants to take care of our pensioners until the end of their days."

President Emmanuel Dooc, of SSS, at the continuing Palace briefing, elaborated: "We have initially identified ways to widen the network and revenue, expand membership, i.e.:

1) All aspiring government contractors must submit SSS clearance as part of pre-bidding requirements, to ensure that these firms pay contributions for their employees.
2) To make mandatory for every OFW – now classified as voluntary members – to become compulsory SSS members.
All OFWs if they become members, could help boost the revenue base, and assure themselves/their families of SSS benefits.
3) All LGUs should observe a strict policy not to renew business permits of firms that cannot issue SSS clearance.
4) All professionals renewing licenses with PRC must also present SSS clearance.