SSS pension hike possible without raising contributions

A labor nongovernment organization (NGO) condemned on Thursday the recent statements made by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on the workers’ legitimate demand for a Social Security System (SSS) pension hike, asserting that the SSS has enough funds to shoulder the proposed P2,000 hike for its 2.2 million retired members.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) also criticized Secretary Diokno’s proposal to peg the SSS pension hike based on tax reforms, a move that would only increase the amount of SSS members’ contributions and serve as cover up to the very dismal collection efficiency rate of the state pension fund.

“It’s already 2017 yet Secretary Diokno and other neoliberal proponents in President Duterte’s Cabinet are rehashing the same arguments used by the previous administration,” EILER deputy executive director Rochelle Porras said. “It has already been established that the agency’s income and investments can wholly financed the much needed P2,000 across-the-board pension hike.”

EILER also slammed the mismanagement within SSS. Only in 2015 that the agency discovered remittances which were not recorded during 1980’s, resulting in an increase of total retirement benefits, allegedly shortening again their actuarial fund life. The labor NGO further warned the finance, budget and socioeconomic planning secretaries to stop pointing fingers at the pensioners and the proposed pension hike when describing the decrease in the state pension firm’s fund life.

“The changes in the agency’s actuarial valuation should not be blamed on how much the workers are remitting nor how much the pensioners are receiving,” Porras challenged. “One must instead take a closer look at the agency’s collection from employers, its membership coverage, the ongoing members contribution verification, its total operating expenses, the humongous bonuses for its executives, and where SSS is investing.”

In addition, based on EILER’s 2015 study on social protection, a significant portion of SSS equity investments is ironically in the mining sector – known for hazardous work. The agency directly owns P1.01 billion (20.5 percent) of the shares in Philex Mining Corporation, the biggest mining corporation in the country, through its former board members Juan Santos, Eliza Bettina Antonio and Bienvenido Laguesma. SSS also had earnings of about P10 billion from the private sector, including financial, telecommunication, power and utility companies. The study showed that Philippine pension fund’s move to invest a growing portion of workers’ contributions to private equities reflects the deepening neoliberal attack in pension funds.

The Social Security Commission headed by Chairman Amado D. Valdez has already submitted a memorandum to President Rodrigo Duterte seeking approval of the proposed staggered increase. The labor NGO continues to urge the solons both at the House and the Senate to ensure the passage of the pension hike as well as President Duterte to immediately sign the P2,000 SSS pension increase to fruition.

“There is absolutely no need to raise the members’ monthly contributions and the President should grant the pension hike not just because it is his campaign promise; beyond that, it is a legitimate demand of the workers,” Porras concluded. “It is about time that our social security system should be oriented towards providing genuine social protection for our people.”

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