Gordon urges SSS to review 2021 contribution hike

Robie de Guzman   •   January 1, 2021   •   266

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Richard Gordon called on the Social Security System (SSS) to submit proposals to the Senate on how to suspend the implementation of the 2021 contribution increase without shortening the fund life of the agency.

While the law mandates an increase in SSS contributions in 2021, Gordon pointed out that this is untimely, especially when businesses are down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Bagama’t kailangan at nakasaad sa batas na magkaroon ng dagdag na kontribusyon ang SSS sa 2021, nakikita natin na hindi ito napapanahon lalo na’t lugmok ang ating mga negosyo,” Gordon said in a statement Thursday.

“Noong ginawa ang RA 11199, wala pa sa hinagap ng mga mambabatas na magkakaroon ng pandemya at magiging malala ang epekto nito sa ekonomiya,” he added.

Gordon cited data from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) which shows that SSS’ loss sales reached P5.2 trillion in the first quarter of the year alone.

He noted that only halfway of the year, it is already higher than the 2021 national budget of P4.5 trillion.

“Kailangan nating balansehen ang interes ng mamayan na nahihirapan sa pandemya pati rin ang interes na mapangalagaan ang pondo ng SSS,” he added.

Gordon, however, acknowledged that stopping the 2021 contribution increase is not easy.

He said a new law may be needed as the increase is specifically mandated in Republic Act No. 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018 and there is no provision in the said law that empowers the SSS to stop it.

“Pag-uusapan namin ito sa komite at kung kinakailangan ay maglalabas kami ng bagong batas para maging magaan para sa ating mga kabababayan ang makaahon sa pandemyang ito habang patuloy na nagbabayad ng kanilang kontribusyon sa SSS,” he said.

RA 1199 was enacted on February 7, 2019 to protect the fund life of the SSS which was shortened by ten years from 2042 to 2032 on account of the approved Php 1,000 additional benefit given by President Rodrigo Duterte under the memorandum from the Executive Secretary dated February 22, 2017.

Senate OKs bill granting presidential powers to defer SSS contribution hike

Robie de Guzman   •   February 23, 2021

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.

Gordon lauds Locsin for filing diplomatic protest vs China’s new law

Robie de Guzman   •   January 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A senator on Thursday commended Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. for filing a diplomatic protest against a new law passed by China that allows its coast guard to shoot foreign vessels in the contested areas in South China Sea.

“I commend Secretary Locsin for taking a very important and valiant action by standing up for our rights. He did right by our country, and we support him wholeheartedly,” Senator Richard Gordon, chairperson of the Senate Committee on justice and human rights, said in a statement.

Locsin on Wednesday said he has filed a diplomatic protest against China for its new law, which he called a “verbal threat of war” to any country that defies it.

China’s legislative body last week passed the law that allows its coast guard to undertake all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.

“When another country claims the oceans surrounding us, which we claim, even threatens to demolish our fishing boats or fishing boats of any country that get to that ocean or that sea, this is a serious cause for concern. This is a shot in the bow of all the claimants in the territories,” Gordon said.

Other senators have also expressed concern over the measure that could endanger the lives of Filipino fishermen who venture in the disputed parts of the West Philippine Sea.

The law is expected to stoke tensions anew in the waters where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes the Philippines and 3 other South China Sea claimants, are currently negotiating for a more binding code of conduct in the contested waters. 

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)

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