State-run Social Security System (SSS) stressed that the pension fund is duty-bound to implement the mandatory coverage for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In a statement, SSS said that Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018 states it should provide meaningful social protection to all Filipinos based whether they are here and abroad.
“The law was a product of in-depth and long discussions between the SSS, its stakeholders and the lawmakers from the upper and lower chambers,” the pension fund said.
The SSS management also said that public consultation hearings were conducted during and after the passage of the Social Security Act of 2018 contrary to recent claims that some sectors, particularly the OFW community, were not consulted in crafting the law.
Public consultation hearings on the SS Act of 2018 were held on March 1 and 4 in Cebu and Manila while a separate public forum on the provision of mandatory coverage of OFWs under said law was also conducted on April 29.
SSS said the hearings were attended by representatives from 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.
The pension fund said that SSS contributions should be seen as savings and not additional expense. SSS offers seven kinds of benefits – sickness, maternity, disability, retirement, funeral, death, and unemployment – which could all be availed of by OFWs.
SSS data showed that as of end-March 2019, OFW paying members or those who have paid at least one month of premium contribution, stood at 325,061 only as compared to the 2.3 million OFWs recorded in the latest Philippine Statistics Office data from April to September 2018.
The state-run agency also refuted claims that it is not doing its job of collecting premium contributions from members especially through their employers.
SSS records showed that its contributions collections from members significantly increased since the current administration assumed office – from P132 billion in 2015 and P144 billion in 2016 to P159 billion in 2017 and to P181 billion in 2018.
The increase in contribution collections is the product of aggressive collection efforts being pushed by the current SSS administration which include the pilot implementation of the Run After Contributions Evaders, the SSS version of Operation Tokhang, and the issuance of Warrants of Distraints, Levy, and Garnishment to delinquent employers.
Under the SS Act of 2018, a contribution penalty condonation program for employers is now in effect until September 1, 2019.
SSS also explained that not all of the 36 million registered members of SSS are regularly paying their monthly contributions.
Some of these members registered only for the purpose of having an SS number while others paid contributions only once.