Don’t be a Grinch, Duterte’s economic managers told
A militant lawmaker on Monday urged President Duterte’s economic managers not to play the Grinch this Christmas by blocking a raise in retirees’ Social Security pensions.
In a recent memorandum to Mr. Duterte, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General Ernesto Pernia said a premium hike was needed to augment the pension fund because the P2,000 increase in pensions could bankrupt the Social Security System (SSS).
The raise recently approved by Congress takes effect in January 2017, with pensions going up by P1,000 and by another P1,000 in January 2022.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, one of the principal authors of House Joint Resolution No. 10 granting the raise beginning January, called the economic team’s move “Grinch-like,” spoiling the expectations of retirees who have long waited for an increase in their pensions.
In a statement, Zarate pointed out that SSS Chair Amado Valdez himself told the hearings at the House of Representatives and the Senate that “raising the membership premium is the least, even last, of their options” in raising retirees’ pensions.
He said Valdez gave assurance that the government could subsidize the pension fund as provided for by the SSS charter.
Former President Benigno Aquino III vetoed the SSS pension hike bill, explaining that actuarial studies had shown that the pension fund could reach bankruptcy by 2027 with the proposed P2,000 across-the-board pension increase.
Zarate said Mr. Duterte’s economic managers should “stop scaring the people, especially the President, with this phantom adverse effect once the current pension is increased.”
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who filed the original bill vetoed by Aquino, said at most, “the increase will only shorten the SSS fund life to 2025-2029 instead of the current 2042.”
“Assuming this is true, 14 years is more than enough time for the government and [the] SSS to find ways to increase its fund life. In 2001, [the] SSS declared that it had a fund life of only five years and yet it was able to increase this to 2042 in just 14 years. If it previously survived a five-year fund life, then surely it can also survive a 14-year fund life,” Colmenares said.
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