MANILA –The Department of Social Welfare and Development supports proposals to make the pension fund universal for all senior citizens in the country.
“If we had the funds to make this possible, why not? We are all for helping our senior citizens, especially those who come from impoverished backgrounds and have no other sources of steady income or means of livelihood. They are and will always be on top of our priorities,” said DSWD Assistant Secretary for the Office of the Secretary (OSEC) Group Aleli B. Bawagan.
Bawagan said many senior citizens in the country need more and better benefits beyond what they currently receive from the government and its various agencies.
“Based on reports, the population of senior citizens is pegged at 5.8 million as of 2010; this is equivalent to 6.5% of the population. The benefits they receive are either very poor or non-existent,” she said. “We at the DSWD will be the first to admit that the assistance we provide to senior citizens is far from enough, and we want to increase and improve the services and programs we have for them, starting with the senior citizen pension fund.”
Bawagan cited a report released by the Coalition of the Services of the Elderly (COSE) where only 17 percent of senior citizens receives the PHP500 social pension even if majority, or 54 percent, do not receive any pension at all. In the meantime, among those who receive pensions from either the SSS, GSIS, or from military service, only 34 percent receive less than PHP2,000 a month, while more than half, or 52 percent, receive less than PHP3,000.
“Our indigent senior citizens have very specific needs for medicine and healthcare. Those who are supported by their children and relatives are fortunate, but many others whose own children are also very poor have no other sources with which to buy maintenance medicines or to pay for medical services and regular check-ups. The least that we can do for them is to ensure that they regularly receive a pension. The DSWD’s pension fund is only PHP500 a month, but we hope that this will increase in the coming years,” Bawagan said.
Bawagan added that House Bill 3934 filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate calls for an increase in the monthly pension of DSWD senior citizen beneficiaries from PHP500 to PHP2,000 to augment the daily subsistence and medical needs of seniors.
The Duterte government, through the DSWD, has targeted 2,809,542 senior citizens for 2017, a 104 percent increase from the 1,375,970 senior citizens in 2016. To date, DSWD has given cash grants to 1,986,281 indigent senior citizens, or 70.7 percent of the targeted number of beneficiaries for 2017.