QUEZON CITY-- The Social Security System (SSS) has urged the banking community to explore and establish its electronic banking (e-banking) facilities in the armed-conflict region of Mindanao to further develop the economic opportunities that lies in the bountiful Land of Promise.
Social Security Commission (SSC), the governing body of SSS, Chairman Amado D. Valdez said that peace will eventually prosper in the armed-conflict area of Mindanao if the residents in the area are engaged in economic activities that can put food on their table, provide them decent shelter and employment, education and health facilities.
I agree, let us give economic generation and economic development priority in the region, then peace order will follow. Only when there is an increase in economic activity, infrastructure development and employment generation, along with it, peace and order will be in place. Valdez stressed in his key note address during the debut economic event of the Bangsa Moro Federal Business Council, Inc, (BMFBCI) held at F1 Hotel in Taguig last March 24.
Valdez noted this as he lamented the challenges faced by SSS in covering employed and voluntary members in the Bangsamoro region.
The unstable peace and order situation in the region is the biggest challenge faced by SSS in ensuring the coverage of employers and workers there. It is difficult to convince people of the need for social security protection when their physical safety is threatened on a daily basis, not to mention their job security and regular sources of income, Valdez said, adding that SSS personnel's safety were also at risk in conducting field investigations or case verifications in far-flung areas.
Valdez, likewise, stressed that the lack of banking facilities in the area was among the challenges of the pension fund since collection and disbursement activities of SSS rely greatly on the banking system.
Members in far-flung areas often need to travel for hours to a city center where banking facilities are available. For example in Basilan, there are several banks in Isabela City, but only one in Lamitan City, he said.
Based on the latest data of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, there are about 1,486 banks branches in Mindanao. Of these number, only 19 were located in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
To date, SSS Mindanao Operations Group is divided in four divisions with 46 offices in the area. Total collections from the region reached P11.53 billion as of end of 2016, which represents only about 8 percent of the total contribution collections nationwide.
In terms of coverage, meanwhile, employers in Mindanao stood at around 109,000 or only 12 percent of total covered employers nationwide, while the individual SSS members of Mindanao was recorded at about 4.9 million or 14 percent of total individual SSS members nationwide.
Just to give you a few snapshots, in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, we have 1,358 covered employers, over 15,000 covered employed workers, and 20,856 self-employed and voluntary members. Collections in the three provinces totaled P68.25 million for 2016, Valdez said.
For SSS' part, Valdez said that it will continue coverage and collection activities in the region but will also focus more on establishing linkages and opening service offices.
There is a need to open a service office in Lamitan City, Basilan, while we are also looking into upgrading the Tawi-Tawi service office into a full-service branch, he said.
The use of G-Cash for contribution and loan payments, according to Valdez, will also be promoted since mobile phone usage and connectivity is more reliable and easier than bank transactions.
SSS will also continue to forge partnerships with local government units and government agencies to cover their job order and contractual personnel under the KaltaSSS Collect Program, as they are not covered by the Government Services and Insurance System.
Amid the challenges faced by the system in the region, Valdez remained positive for the region as there are pockets of hope and prospects for growth in the Bangsamoro region.
The certainty of increased government funding and international development aid infusion into the local economy will go a long way in generating economic activity, he said.
Source: Philippines Information Agency