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Hopes up for pension hike with SSS plan

THE proposed P2,000 increase in the pensions of Social Security System (SSS) retirees, it may be recalled, was vetoed by then President Aquino in January this year, after raising such high hopes among the thousands of old retirees receiving pensions of as little as P2,500 a month.

The veto was unexpected, as the measure had been widely discussed in Congress and in media. As the Aquino administration was known to be coordinating well with the 16th Congress, it was believed it had administration support. All were looking forward to its approval as a most welcome gift for the Christmas holiday season.

Congress did pass the bill by a big margin. But the president vetoed it, saying it would have “dire financial consequences.” It would cost the SSS P56 billion a year, he said, and that would deplete the SSS Reserve Fund by the year 2029. He ignored the provision of the Social Security Law, RA 8282, that mandates Congress to appropriate sums needed to assure that the SSS should always have an adequate working balance of its funds.

Now that we have a new administration and a new Congress, our legislators have refilled the SSS pension bill and President Duterte has assured his support for the bill. Significantly, this bill has the support of the SSS itself which has come up with plans for a working arrangement that will allow it to grant the additional P2,000 pension.

The SSS plan calls for a two-stage delivery that takes actuarial and financial aspects into consideration. The first stage would be an outright grant of a P1,000 increase in 2017. The other P1,000 would be granted a few years later, in 2022 or earlier. In between the two installments, the SSS would shore up its funds by generating additional revenue through improved collections and new investments, new Social Security Commission Chairman Amado Valdez said.

Among others, it will seek approval for plans to invest in higher-yielding projects such as roads to be built under the government’s Public-Private Partnership program, which promise higher yields than the stocks, housing, real estate, and debt instruments which are now allowed. This could perhaps be supplemented by a modest increase in contribution rates plus a government subsidy.

With the readiness shown by so many sectors – the President, Congress, the SSS itself – our retirees can look forward to getting a little more to help them in their old age.