Solon pushes bill giving additional benefits for seniors

Published October 8, 2020, 11:02 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

In this time of public health crisis,  the country’s 7.5 million senior citizens should be given additional support and protection.

In this photo taken on September 8, 2020, an elderly woman wearing a face shield boards a bus in Manila. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

This was stressed by Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin as she pushed for the passage of House Bill No. 7815  that grants wide-ranging benefits to the elderly, including P1,000 social pension per month; an annual birthday cash gift amounting to P1,000;  20 percent discount on the purchase of health supplements; and free access and priority in government testing facilities.

“Upon reaching the age of 60, the level of opportunities available  to an individual decline as the risk of deterioration of health inclines. Especially in the time of the pandemic, our senior citizens should be given ample protection by the State in order to ensure their health and overall well-being,” the House Deputy Minority Leader said in her bill’s explanatory note.

Citing the most recent data from the Commission on Population, she noted that there are 7.5 million senior citizens in the country. She laments that roughy 50 percent of the elderly are not receiving any form of pension and are left to fend for themselves.

The former Department of Health Secretary  said as of April this year, only 192, 874 seniors are receiving social pension from the government.

“The current legislation for senior citizens is blind to the complexities of a pandemic, or a public health crisis to fully support the needs of the senior citizens, thus the need for this proposal,” Garin said.

According to the opposition lawmaker, her proposed Senior Citizens Health Protection Act guarantees monthly social pension of P1,000 per senior citizens who are not receiving any form of pension from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS) and similar entities, to augment their daily substance and other medical needs.

Under HB 7815, the Office of Senior Citizens’ Affairs (OSCA) is tasked to disburse the social pension to the elderly.  

The bill provides that  all senior citizens shall be granted an annual gift on their birthday amounting P1,000.

Garin said her bill also seeks to institutionalize the inclusion of health supplements in the 20 perecnt senior citizen discount, and provides free vaccination against influenza virus and pneumococcal disease for all senior citizens, regardless of status in life.

HB 7815 also provides that in time of a public health crisis or a pandemic, senior citizens shall be given free access and priority to government testing facilities to address their health vulnerabilities.

“As we enter the better normal, our laws to protect our senior citizens should be able to adapt to their needs and ensure that they are well taken cared of, has strong immune system, and given priority in combatting the public health crisis,” Garin said.