Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Palace urged to add .3 M seniors in pension program
MANILA-Government was told to enroll more sick and poor elderly in the social pension program for indigent seniors as the current program only covers 77 year olds and above.
The call was made by Sen. Ralph Recto who wants the number of senior citizen pensioners increased to 770,804 next year from this year’s 479,080.
The increase will allow those in the 65- to 76-year-old category to be included in the program for the first time since the law authorizing the grant of the stipend was passed 4 years ago, Recto said.
An estimate made by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which administers the program, said that 274,804 seniors in the 70 to 76 years old age bracket will be enrolled together with 16,920 in the 65 to 69 age bracket once the number of beneficiaries is raised to 770,804.
Adding almost 300,000 “senior pensioners” will, however, increase the program’s budget from P2.87 billion this year to P4.62 billion next year, Recto admitted.
But Recto said that the additional P1.75 billion can be easily absorbed in the P2.6 trillion “indicative budget ceiling” of the 2015 budget, the preparation of which is now in full blast in the executive branch.
“I think there is budget space for the amount needed to expand the beneficiary base of the senior pension program,” Recto said.
He said that government should start reducing its backlog of commitments under Republic Act 9994, which expands benefits senior citizens are entitled to.
While a 2012 census by the DSWD had identified 1,315,584 poor 60 year olds and above who could qualify for the P500 monthly pension, the government has so far limited its grant to seniors who are 77 years old and above.
“Overall, there is a 5-billion-peso funding gap. We can reduce this gradually by bringing more seniors into the fold of the program,” Recto said.
RA 9994 defines an “indigent senior citizen” who may qualify for the P500 monthly social pension as someone 60 years old and above who is “frail, sickly, or with disability, and without pension or permanent source of income, compensation or financial assistance from his relatives to support his needs.”
In its "National Household Targeting" census, the DSWD included other economic, social, health, housing information to better identify the indigents truly deserving of the pension.
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