Senate repeals SSS law; expands coverage to OFWs

MANILAOverseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) may soon avail of programs offered by the Social Security Systems (SSS), as part of reforms introduced in a Senate bill overhauling the SSS charter.

Senate Bill 1753, or the proposed "Social Security Act of 2018" was approved by the Senate Monday on the third and final reading. The bill was authored and sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises.

"The SSS must be given a chance to do what they can for the people because the government could not base its policies on fear but on trusting the people, especially those with tremendous responsibility," Gordon said.

The bill was also authored by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate Minority Franklin Drilon, along with Senators Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Cynthia Villar, Antonio Trillanes IV, Joel Villanueva, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Grace Poe, Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay.

The bill was approved with 20 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention.

Gordon said the bill effectively repeals the 21-year old Social Security Law, or Republic Act 1161, as amended by Republic Act 8282 and expands the power of the SSS to ensure the long-term viability of the said system.

"The bill is an enhancement of the previous laws; it ensures hope that the people would not be a burden to the country, that they are partners of the government not by way of exaction of taxes but by their contribution so that their welfare is assured," Gordon said.

"The passage of the bill would expand, protect and increase the SSS fund so that when the time comes, there would be available pension for the people," he added.

Among the new powers and key reforms under SBN 1753, Gordon said, is the compulsory coverage of both land-based and sea-based OFWs to the SSS, "provided that they are not over 60 years of age."

He said under the bill, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment would be the primary agencies that "would negotiate for the OFWs, especially those working in Middle East countries while "enhancing the functions of the Philippine embassies therein to enable them to collect the SSS contributions."

Gordon said although at present, there are only 500,000 OFWs who are covered by the SSS, the bill may help expand that number to 2.5 million members.

"Even the Filipinos who became naturalized Americans and retired in the United States may be invited to invest in the provident fund," he said.

He said the bill would also give the SSS Commission the power to determine the salary credit and monthly contributions of members, which would now allow the commission to increase contributions "depending on the actuarial survey."

"The bill envisions a benefits-based systemwhat you invest is what you get; no investment, no benefitthrough which the SSS contributions could be raised without seeking the approval of the President or the endorsement of Congress because the discretion to increase contributions could be left to the better judgment of the SSS board of directors provided it would generate more suitable pensions," Gordon said.

Gordon said the expanded powers are needed since it would allow the SSS management to increase the salary credit and contribution of employees "considering that at present it is only limited to PHP16,000 which yields very little benefit."

Under the new reforms, Gordon said, the SSS would also be empowered to invest its Reserve Funds to "grow the wealth of SSS and ultimately yield higher income."

However, he said these investments must satisfy requirements of liquidity, safety/security and yield "to ensure the actuarial solvency of the funds of the SSS."

"The bill does not promise an abundance of wealth but to secure people in case they would encounter unwanted situations in their lives through a lifeline that they themselves created through their contribution," he said. (Senate PR)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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