Iriga: Villafuerte urges BBM team to raise pensions for seniors

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Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte on Tuesday called on the Economic Cabinet Cluster to exert its best effort to raise the amount needed to enable the increase to P1,000 of the monthly pension given to indigent senior citizens.

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An estimated four million indigent senior citizens now receive a pension of P500 a month.

Villafuerte said the funds should not only be for a one-year grant of the pension increase but should be sustained for the next years.

“We are appealing to the DOF and DBM to apply their optimum effort in rummaging for funds in the national government’s available appropriations for the remainder of 2022 or to realign accessible outlays in the national budget to fund the increase in the monthly pension of over 4 million senior citizens from P500 to the adjusted amount of P1,000 as set by RA 11916,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte made the appeal after Republic Act 11916—which he was a co-author—lapsed into law last July 30. The law provides the monthly pension of qualified senior citizens under the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens program of the government will become P1,000 from P500.

Villafuerte appealed to members of the House of Representatives and Senate to “make sure that the Marcos administration has the wherewithal to bankroll this pension hike for indigent Filipino seniors in the coming year by making it a point to tuck in the sufficient amount for this purpose in the proposed GAA for 2023, in support of the social welfare agenda of the President.”

“It will be too bad,” he said, “if RA 11916, which Malacañang has allowed to lapse into law, will end up being a great but unfunded program because the DOF and DBM had failed to identify funds for its implementation, even if indigent senior Filipinos are among the sectors in dire need of state subsidies to help them cope with soaring commodity prices and palliate the economic scarring caused by COVID-19.”

RA 11916 amended RA 7432 that provided for a universal social pension for elderly Filipinos and RA 9994 that granted additional benefits and privileges to senior citizens.

Villafuerte said the DOF and DBM face this tough task together as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was reported last week as requesting for additional funds for its cash aid program, as the P10 billion thus far released to the DSWD is insufficient for its targeted subsidies for different sectors.

DSWD Assistant Secretary Rommel Lopez said the DBM and DOF need to provide more funds because the around P10-billion fund released so far for this Department is not enough.

Villafuerte said the implementation of targeted subsidies is a must amid the pandemic-driven economic crunch as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan himself said the release of such cash aid to low-income families cushions the effect on them of the high prices of oil and other commodities.

For her part, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said our economic managers would study the proposed measures on targeted cash transfers and “come up with a position at the right time. We will have to thoroughly study these bills first to get the magnitude and if it’s consistent with the administration’s priority programs. We will be in close coordination with the rest of the members of the economic team—what we can do to respond to requested budget requirements, such as those created due to the enactment of new laws.”

(Source: Bicol News | Manila Standard, photo courtesy of Lray Villafuerte Facebook page)

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