Economic managers at fault for staggered SSS pension hike

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A labor non-government organization (NGO) expresses its dismay on President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers on the staggered pension increase for 2.2 million retired SSS members. According to the NGO, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and, National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Ernesto Pernia are to blame.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) has continuously aired that the Social Security System (SSS) has enough funds to shoulder the proposed P2,000 hike. The impending increase in monthly premiums of the 31 million members starting May 2017 only serves as cover up to the very dismal collection efficiency rate of the state pension fund.

“The economic managers should stop using the pension hike as reason to increase contribution of members,” EILER deputy executive director Rochelle Porras said. “They have pushed for the yearly increase in members’ contribution to downplay the people’s clamor for the pension hike. If they so fear the decrease in the actuarial life of SSS, they should consider examining the questionable investments that SSS has made. The gross mismanagement of SSS is very alarming.”

Based on current available data, an increase up to 17 percent of total contributions would generate an additional P72.3 billion SSS fund. However, the staggered pension hike only costs P62 billion.

The labor NGO cautioned the public against the deepening neoliberal attack to the state pension fund. SSS persists to invest in the private market, enabling privatization of public infrastructure. Under the Social Security Act of 1997 (RA 8282), SSS can invest 40 percent of its funds in private securities while only 30 percent may be invested in government financial institutions and corporations. The board of SSS has even lobbied for relaxation of investment restrictions so that it can invest offshore.

EILER also reiterated that a significant portion of SSS equity investments is ironically in the mining sector – known for hazardous work. SSS 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 holds 30 percent of the stocks in Benguet Corporation, one of the 21 firms ordered to close after failing the audit of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“The staggered pension increase approved by the President is already a compromise to the workers’ legitimate demand,” Porras concluded. “The impending premium increase is anti-worker and anti-poor. It will not address the mismanagement of SSS funds. What the workers need is an immediate relief from massive poverty through access to decent jobs and significant wage increase.”

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