By Chito Chavez
The Social Security System (SSS) branded as baseless allegations that “no extensive consultations among the Overseas Filipino Workers were ever conducted by SSS” with regards to the mandatory SSS contributions of land-based and sea-based overseas workers.
In a statement, Ma. Luisa Sebastian SSS Vice-President for Public Affairs and Special Events Division said representatives from the OFW groups actively participated in the numerous Senate hearing that tackled issues concerning their sector.
Among those present during the series of Senate hearings included the Filipino Association of Mariners Employment Inc., Philippine Association of Service Exporters Inc., Joint Manning Group, Associated Marine Officer’s and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines, Coalition of Licensed Agencies for Domestic and Service Workers Inc.
Admitting the Philippines and the host country of the OFW have in the meantime not entered into a bilateral labor agreement (BLA) with provisions on the payment of SSS contributions by foreign employers, Sebastian explained the land-based OFW will have to shoulder both employer and employee shares similar to “our voluntary and self-employment members in the Philippines’’.
She noted the SSS has started conferring with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) since February 2019 to work for the inclusion of the payment of SSS contributions by foreign employers in the bilateral agreements.
As to the $144 mandatory insurance as mandated under the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, Sebastian clarified that “it is only compulsory for agency-hired OFWs with expiration dates.
She added that direct-hired, name-hired or re-hired OFWs only can avail of this insurance voluntarily.
To further expound on the controversy, Sebastian stressed that SSS membership has no expiration as it also provides a high-return on investments with as much as P16 in return for every P1 of contribution.
The clarification was issued after Migrante International joined other sectors in a BAYAN-led demonstration held at the SSS main office on March 13, 2019 to protest the supposed impending enforcement of the mandatory SSS on both land-based and sea-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Sebastian described as disconcerting the statement of Migrante Philippines Chairperson Arman Hernando that stated “as Migrante feared, it is the OFWs who will bear the brunt of paying the monthly contributions and not the employer. How can OFWs have a secure future with SSS if their monthly income gets robbed by the government that stubbornly refuses to raise pensions?’’
She emphasized that “SSS is savings’’ that a member can use in case of unemployment, disabilities, retirement and funeral and death purpose brushing off Hernando’s assertion the said SSS contribution is a burden.
“It is unfair to say the government stubbornly refused to raise pension when SSS granted P1,000 additional benefit to its pensioners in January 2017. Likewise, there was no guarantee by SSS that an increase in pensions will be granted in 2019. The desire of the current administration is to grant P1,000 additional benefit for pensioners within the term of President Duterte but the pension fund must remain viable to disburse more benefit payments,’’ Sebastian’s statement read.
In an earlier complaint, Hernando insisted the government should fulfill its pledge to grant the clamored for P 2,000 addition to the SSS pension instead of imposing higher exactions.
In October last year, Migrante expressed its strongest opposition to the bill after its bicameral approval in the Philippine legislature.