By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros asked on Tuesday the cooperation of her colleagues in Congress to pass her Senate bill which seeks to create a universal social pension system for all senior citizens or those 65 years old and above to help elderly Filipinos meet their daily needs.
Hontiveros, who serves as vice-chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, filed Senate Bill No. 2138, or the “Lingap Para kay Lolo at Lola Act,” which seeks to amend Republic Act 7432 (Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2003) as amended by Republic Act 9994 (Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010).
“By providing income security in the form of universal pension for senior citizens, we not only assist them with their basic needs such as food and health, and help prop-up low income families, we also create a tool to share the proceeds of growth across all of society,” she said.
Under the bill, the government will create a social pension system which provides assistance to all senior citizens aged 65 years and older. Senior citizens who are aged 60 to 64 and are classified as indigent will also receive assistance. The bill likewise expands the monthly stipend received by senior citizens from P500 to P1,000 “to help them better cope with daily expenses and medical needs.”
Hontiveros thus sought the appropriation of P66 billion for the purpose. The P55 billion represents 0.39 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The lady senator sought to expand the social benefits for senior citizens as there is already a social pension in the national budget.
According to Hontiveros, the universal pension system for the elderly better offers more advantages for the country than the existing means-based approach in relation to developing the country’s pension system and increasing the number of Filipinos with pension coverage.
She said a universal pension system is simple, effective, ensures security for Filipinos with low-income, and reduces “instances of corruption and clientelism at the grassroots level.”
Likewise, Hontiveros said that a universal pension system preserves the dignity of senior citizens by making the pension a right, and not a mere state handout. She added that such a system will enjoy a broad base of support from the public and thus can be implemented with low administrative costs to government.
Hontiveros explained that the bill would not only benefit senior citizens but would also affect younger members of their households, citing a 2016 study which showed that over half of Filipino senior citizens live with relatives who have difficulty in making ends meet.
She also said that greater protection for the elderly is becoming more and more relevant as the country’s population continues to age, noting the Philippine Statistics Authority’s projection that the number of Filipinos over the age of 60 will triple from 7.6 million in 2015 to 22.6 million in 2045.