Not only did the Senate retain the value-added tax (VAT) exemption of senior citizens, it also seeks to allocate funding for a universal social pension that would benefit all poor senior citizens in the country.
Under Senate Bill 1592 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill, part of the incremental revenues will go to the provision of social pension for all senior citizens except those with contributory pension.
“Marami pa rin po sa ating mga senior citizen ang hindi nakatatanggap ng pension. By providing greater funding, it is our goal that all senior citizens will be reached by our social pension programs to help lift them out of poverty,” said Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee.
Based on the data from the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), only 29% of the elderly population are covered by the Social Security System (SSS), the Government Social Insurance System (GSIS) and other pension systems, while 34% of seniors are the target beneficiaries of the Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
This leaves 37% or 3.1 million of the total 8.3 million senior population with no pension at all.
The COSE and the Confederation of Older Persons Association of the Philippines have expressed their support for SB 1592.
“The proposed measure to universalize the current social pension program is highly notable. There is a strong evidence that only a small minority of poorer older people receive a contributory pension, thus the proposal is more likely to cover the majority of poor and near-poor older persons. Such proposal will not only support a dignified life for millions of senior citizens, but also a fulfillment to President Duterte’s socio-economic agenda on improving the social protection program of the country,” said COSE Executive Director Emily Beridico in its position paper.
To be eligible for the DSWD’s social pension program, which gives P500 every month to indigent seniors, the senior must be frail, sickly or with disability; do not receive pension from state-run pension agencies; and do not have a permanent source of income or financial support from family or relatives.
Under the proposed universal social pension, as long as the senior citizen does not have contributory pension, he or she will be qualified.
To cover all 6 million seniors with no contributory pension, DSWD’s 2017 social pension budget of P17.9 billion should be doubled to P35 billion.
“We must bridge this gap in the social protection system in the country. Dapat ay masiguro natin na ang bawat isa sa kanila at mayroong sapat na ayuda para pambili ng kanilang mga gamot at iba pang pangangailangan upang sila ay makapamuhay nang komportable,” said Angara, who is also one of the authors of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, which grants discounts and VAT exemption to senior citizens.
“As we celebrate National Elderly Week, we call on our colleagues to support this measure in recognition of the important role that our seniors play in nation building,” Angara added.