Funding woes stall giving cash gifts to 80- and 90-year-olds
MANILA, Philippines —The Centenarians Act of 2016, which would provide financial presents to 80- and 90-year-olds, has hit a roadblock because of a lack of funding.
The Senate committee on social justice, welfare, and rural development held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss Senate Bills (SBs) 21, 74, and 824, which would alter Republic Act No. 10868, the Centenarians Act.
Only senior citizens above 100 receive a P100,000 cash gift under the law.
SB Nos. 21 and 824 propose distributing P10,000 cash presents to elders 80 and 90 years old.
SB No. 74 proposes cash presents of P50,000, P30,000, and P20,000 for 100-, 90-, and 80-year-olds.
If the Centenarians Act of 2016 is revised, SB No. 21 author Senator Bong Revilla estimates that the government will need at least P4.5 billion to provide for all beneficiaries.
Senator Imee Marcos raised the question of where the money for the cash gifts would come from, as the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s P500 pension for seniors aged 60 and above has yet to be completed.
“Kasi under the old law pa lang, kulang na ‘yung pera natin doon sa P500. Hindi lahat ng 60 and above nabibigyan as we stand. On top of that, meron nag-lapse into law, ‘yung P500 naging P1,000. ‘Yung P1,000 wala pang nabibigay,” she said.
(Because under the old law, our money is already short for that P500. Not all 60 and above are being given as we stand. On top of that, a measure has lapsed lapse into law, that P500 became P1,000. For the P1,000, no one has not been given yet.)
Marcos was referring to Republic Act No. 11916, which lapsed into law on July 30.
“For both senior citizens stipends (P500 and P1000), nasa P79 billion ang requisite or requirement. Ito na ‘yung mga requirements under the law na unserved, on top of the 79 billion, meron pa tayong Centenarians Act,” she pointed out.
(For both senior citizens’ stipends, the requisite or requirement is P79 billion. These are the requirements under the law that are unserved, on top of the 79 billion, we still have the Centenarians Act.)
“We all are in full support of these bills, but we are also fully aware of the budget constraints,” she added.
Meanwhile, Department of Finance (DOF) Asec. Valery Brion questioned the sustainability of the proposed amendments to the Centenarians Act, saying the required funds of P2.2 billion to P4.4 billion – based on its computation – would be a huge jump from the P264.1 million allocation under the 2023 budget.
“So we would have to look for more funds [for] the program, and at the same time, there might be displacement in some existing programs if we reallocate the budget,” said Brion.
The government will need to set aside more money for social pensions for the elderly in the future, as Brion noted, because life expectancy has risen in the country.
She added that needy seniors receive double pensions, discounts, tax exemptions, and required PhilHealth coverage.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), for its part, said the huge budgetary impact of the said bills would “greatly limit the limited fiscal space of the government since the funds allocated for the Centenarians Act is only P264 million.”
“And in the absence of additional revenue measures it will be very difficult for the national government to fund the requirements of the subject bills which will have to compete with other urgent priority programs of the government,” said Carlos Borja Jr., a DBM representative in the hearing.
“In general, we recommend the further study of the proposed measures,” he added.