Senate OKs bill granting presidential powers to defer SSS contribution hike

Robie de Guzman   •   February 23, 2021   •   298

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to grant the President limited power to postpone increases in the Social Security System (SSS) contributions for six months in times of national emergency or calamity.

The Senate Bill 2027 was passed on Monday after receiving 21 affirmative votes from senators. It was sponsored by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairperson of the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises.

Under the measure, the President, upon the recommendation of the Social Security Commission, may suspend the scheduled increase for six months and may extend the deferment for another six months for a total of one year.

The bill seeks to amend section 4(a)(9) of Republic Act No. 11199, also known as the “Social Security Act of 2018,” which allows the Social Security Commission, the governing body of the SSS, to implement the contribution rate increase.

Under Sec. 4(a)(9) of Republic Act (RA) No. 11199, a one percent contribution increase will be imposed on SSS members every two years starting 2019 until 2025.

This means that from a contribution rate of 12 percent in 2020, contribution rate will increase to 13 percent beginning January 2021.

Gordon, also one of the bill’s authors, pointed out that having the mandated contribution increase under RA 11199 is not timely because of the continuing hardship brought about by COVID-19 pandemic to the people and to the business sector.

“This bill seeks to provide the people with flexibility to adapt to the pandemic by empowering the President to temporarily suspend or defend the increase in contributions scheduled under RA 11199, so that the people will be able to have financial breathing space to be able to adjust to the on-going National Emergency,” Gordon said in a statement.

The bill also states that other scheduled contribution rates and the monthly salary credits shall continue to be valid and effective, provided that no changes in the implementing rules or administrative procedures would be introduced by the Social Security Commission that will defer the disbursement of benefits.

Senate committee approves bill giving Duterte authority to defer SSS hike

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises on Tuesday (January 26) approved a Senate bill that will grant President Rodrigo Duterte the authority to defer or suspend the Social Security System (SSS) contribution rate hike.

Under Senate Bill 1970, the Chief Executive can suspend the implementation of the SSS contribution hike during a national emergency or state of calamity for six months.

While the SSS administration acknowledges the bill, it reiterated the need to implement the contribution hike this year.

SSS President and CEO Andrea Ignacio said delaying the implementation might have a negative effect on the government’s financial situation.

“Delaying this implementation of any reform will worsen an already dire financial institution. The new contribution schedule in the SSS Charter is a long overdue reform. SSS has increased its pension benefit 25 times while it adjusted contribution rate only 8 times to date,” he said.

He added that SSS would not have enough budget to pay their pensioners for the next 30 to 40 years. However, Ignacio said they will not force unemployed individuals to pay.

“We acknowledge that the contribution hike will add a little burden to our employers and workers but, at the same time, the fact is we are asking for this hike only to those who are able to do so. The employers who are operating and the workers that still have their jobs,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva and committee chairperson Senator Richard Gordon said the contribution hike will further burden the citizens, especially during the pandemic.

Iyong may trabaho at may negosyo, sa halip na hindi na natin sila i-burden out, bibigyan pa natin sila ng additional burden na isipin (Those with jobs and business, instead of easing their burden, we are giving them an additional burden they have to think about), Villanueva said.

Lalala ang situation, baka ang mangyari masyadong hirap na. Talagang dapat tingnan natin kung anong gagawin natin to alleviate their pain (The situation might worsen. We should look for ways on how to alleviate their pain),” said Gordon.

Under Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018 the contribution hike for this year will increase by 13% and 15% by 2025. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Velasco files bills granting president power to suspend PhilHealth, SSS rate hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday said he has filed two separate bills seeking to grant the president the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) in times of national emergencies.

In a statement, Velasco said his twin measures propose to amend Republic Act (RA) 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, and RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, which provide for gradual increases in monthly premium contributions in PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

The bills authorize the president to suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in premium rates in times of national emergencies “when public interest so requires.”

But this should be in consultation with the secretaries of health and finance departments as chairpersons of PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

The measures were filed after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the premium rate increase.

Velasco said RA 11223 was enacted in 2018 to ensure that all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health care goods and services, and protected against financial risk.

He said the intent of the law is clear and cannot be overemphasized—Filipinos need and deserve a comprehensive set of health services that are cost-effective, of high quality, and responsive.

The House speaker, however, stressed that the current situation is extraordinary and that Congress must respond accordingly as he called for the swift approval of the bills aimed at alleviating the financial burden faced by many Filipino workers amid the crisis.

“While we recognize that the [PhilHealth] only aims to implement the provisions of RA 11223, imposing a higher premium rate to our kababayans under our current conditions will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members,” Velasco said in the explanatory note of House Bill 8316.

“Suspending the imposition of the new PhilHealth premium rates will provide a much-needed relief from the negative effects of the pandemic and will assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments,” he said.

In filing HB 8317, Velasco said the temporary suspension of the hike in SSS contributions will help the workforce achieve faster recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

“We are witnesses to the negative impact of this COVID-19 outbreak. Under this pretext, the sovereign government must be given the prerogative to bend the rules of the social security law in favor of the greater good,” Velasco said.

He likewise said that increasing the rate of contributions of SSS members will “strikingly undermine the recovery effort of everyone suffering from job losses, wage reduction, business closures, and health-related issues.”

SSS, handang ipagpaliban ang dagdag-kontribusyon para sa taong 2021

Robie de Guzman   •   January 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Handang ipagpaliban ng Social Security System (SSS) ang paniningil ng dagdag-kontribusyon sa mga miyembro nito para sa taong 2021, kasunod ng mga panawagan at batikos ng iba’t ibang grupo sa gitna ng nararanasang krisis pangkalusugan.

Ayon kay SSS President/CEO Aurora Ignacio, ipinaiiral na nila ang umento sa kontribusyon alinsunod sa itinatakda ng Republic Act 11199 o ang Social Security Act.

Mula sa dating 12%, itinaas na sa 13% ang antas ng kontribusyon ngayong taon.

Layunin nito na mapahaba ang buhay ng pondo ng SSS at umabot hanggang taong 2054.

Subalit kung ipag-uutos ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte o kaya ay magpasa ng batas ang Kongreso, sinabi ni Ignacio na handa silang ipagpaliban ang implementasyon nito.

“Marami naman talaga kaming plano na ibigay na benefits ngayon pati yung projected contribution pero kung yan po ay isasabatas o imamandato sa amin ng Palasyo at Presidente, kami po ay susunod,” ang pahayag ni Ignacio.

Bagaman naiintindihan nila ang hirap na nararanasan ng maraming Pilipino na nawalan ng trabaho at nalugi ang negosyo dahil sa COVID-19 pandemic, iginiit ng ahensiya na mahalagang maipatupad ang dagdag-kontribusyon upang maibigay ang karampatang benepisyo at pension sa mga miyembro.

“Madami din naman ang nawalan ng trabaho or nagkaroon ng businesses na nagbawas ng tao. Kung ito, apektado rin ang SSS na nabawasan ang contribution na natanggap namin pero ‘yun po kasing benefits ay hindi nababawasan ito ay lalo pang nadadagdagan dahil kailangan ito ng mga miyembro natin kaya karamihan sa kanila ay nag-a-avail ng benefits ngayon lalo na yung calamity loan na binigay natin last 2020,” ani Ignacio.

Noong Lunes ng gabi, iniutos ng pangulo ang pagpapaliban sa pagpapatupad ng dagdag-kontribusyon ng Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) kasabay ng pangakong hahanap ng paraan ang pamahalaan para mapunan ang pondo ng ahensiya.

Gayunman, hindi nito binanggit kung may plano rin siyang suspindihin ang SSS contribution increase ngayong taon. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Joan Nano)

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