Monday, November 17, 2014

Senate panel to fund full implementation of poor seniors’ pension

MANILA-All indigent senior citizens will be covered by the social pension program once a Senate amendment to the 2015 national budget is signed into law.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Senate Finance subcommittee he heads has recommended to increase next year’s funding for the “Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens Program” from the Malacanang-proposed P4.763 billion to P7.178 billion.

The P2.415 billion hike according to Recto will grant all indigent senior citizens – or those 60 years of age and above - a P500 monthly stipend from the government.

At present only “economically disadvantaged” seniors 77 years old and above benefit from the financial aid mandated by Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

For next year, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) wants to lower the “availment age” to 67 years old which will would benefit 722,294 individuals and cost government P4.763 billion.

But in hearings called by Recto, “there were discussions on how to close the gap, in order to bring in all qualified seniors to the program because that specific provision of the law, due to budget constraints, remain half-implemented,” the senator said.

 Recto said using the 67 years of age cut-off as proposed by the DSWD will leave some 401,551 qualified seniors "who are above 60 and below 67" out of the program.

“The consensus was to find funds so that all who are supposed to receive that pension, which comes up to P6,000 a year, will get it,“ Recto said.

The senator said that his committee raised the funds for the full implementation of the senior pension program by cutting administrative overhead and bureaucratic expenses.

Republic Act 9994 defines an “indigent senior citizen” 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.”

“Ito yung hindi lang may edad na, may sakit pa o kapansanan, walang trabaho, walang maykayang kamag-anak na kumukupkop at walang ibang pensyong natatanggap . These are people in extremely difficult circumstances,” Recto said.

“Kung tutuusin ang P500 a month ay kulang pa nga. Kaya kung maliit na nga, bakit pa natin ipagkakait?” he said.

The DSWD has identified the beneficiaries in a series of surveys and poverty mapping drives conducted under the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction.

In its census, the DSWD included other economic, social, health, housing information to better identify the indigents truly deserving of the pension.

 Recto said the P7 billion annually required for the program is equivalent to what we spend for CCT for one month.“

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