11 January 2017
President Duterte approves P1,000 increase in SSS pensioners’ benefits

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a P1,000 increase in benefits of pensioners of Social Security System (SSS).

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella made the announcement on Tuesday during a press conference in Malacañan Palace together with SSS top officials, Chairman Amado Valdez and President & CEO Emmanuel Dooc.

“The President has approved a P1,000 pension hike this month with a corresponding 1.5 contribution rate hike in May 2017 and an increase in monthly salary credit to P20,000 from P16,000,” Abella said in a statement he read before the media.

Dooc, however, later on clarified when asked by reporters that there might be a “slight delay” in the implementation of the increase saying that it may extend until February as they have to finish all the computations for the adjustments.

Nevertheless, Abella said the adjustment was part of the President’s fulfillment of his social contract with the Filipino people, “especially the elderly and the poor who gave the best years of their lives in service.”

The Palace official said the President was not amenable to using taxpayers’ money to fund pension increase considering that the SSS is a private pension fund. Thus, SSS has opted to increase contribution rate to cover the hike.

By May 2017, a 1.5 contribution rate increase will be implemented or 12.5 percent from the current 11 percent contribution rate. In peso value, the additional total contribution will range from P15 to P740 equally shared by employer and employee.

Valdez said the SSS is eyeing to implement another P1,000 increase by 2022 or even earlier as 2019 in order to comply with the initial proposal of P2,000 hike in pension.

Meanwhile, Valdez assured that SSS pension fund will last until 2040 despite the hike given the increase in contribution rate.

To ensure sustainability, SSS will carry out legal action plans to reduce contribution delinquency, said Valdez, which include intensifying collection from delinquent and non-compliant employers, aggressive prosecution of delinquent employers and facilitating settlements.

SSS also plans to closely coordinate with the Department of Justice, create more legal department branches, reorganize legal and enforcement groups, operationalize paralegal systems and adopt core processes.

At the same time, SSS looks at executive interventions that will improve collection through the issuances of Executive Orders.

Dooc said they also plan to require companies participating in government biddings to present SSS clearances to ensure that they pay premiums of their employees. This is part of the moves to boost SSS contribution.

Also, SSS is looking at requiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to register as members prior to their deployment abroad to increase SSS capital base.

Valdez said they will review the current salary scheme to prevent unreasonable increases in SSS officials’ salaries noting however that the fund is like any other modern corporation that needs efficient and professional people to be successful.

If there are increases in salaries and bonuses, Valdez said those must be indexed in the officers’ performances. This is to allay public doubts that SSS is misusing the fund.###PND

President Duterte hosts traditional Vin d’ Honneur in Malacañan
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday hosted the traditional New Year Vin d’ Honneur at the Malacañan Palace, reaffirming his commitment to eliminate corruption, criminality and illegal drugs in the country.

“Thank you for joining us today. We welcome 2017 with hope for a positive and meaningful change for the Philippines and for our peoples,” the President said in his message as he offered a toast before the members of the Diplomatic Corps and other government officials.

President Duterte renewed his pledge to address the three basic evils that plague the Filipino people, especially the poorest and the disenfranchised: the burdens of slavery to drugs, corruption, criminality and armed rebellion in the south.

“I say to you all now that sacred vow remains unchanged. I stay true to the mandate reposed on me,” he said.

He vowed to go after corrupt officials as well as criminals, adding he will work very hard to finally break the apparatus of the illegal drugs trade in the country.

In the past few months, his administration has started the process of genuine reform to encourage more trade and investments, to intensify commercial activities, to ramp up investment and much-needed infrastructure, to increase revenues to make communities more resilient, and to improve basic social services, the President said.

Alongside these efforts, he said his government is talking to all stakeholders to bring about just and lasting peace in Mindanao and to finally bring to an end one of the longest-running revolutions in the world.

These changes are vital to make the Philippines a stronger republic, he said. The country’s improved footing on political, social and economic spheres will give it an even more active and more influential role in the community of nations, according to the President.

And as the Philippines contends with its domestic challenges, the President said his administration values its partners as it seeks strengthened existing friendships even as it pursues new ones.

Friends help each other and utilize constructive engagement to achieve common goals, he noted, adding that in truth, everyone shares the same aspiration of greater peace, progress, and prosperity.

Highlighting that friendship knows no bounds, he said the Philippines has and will continue to build on friendships founded on a common objective, shared values and time-honored principles of international law.

“Let us work together to further expand the areas of mutual beneficial collaboration. This New Year, the Philippines takes on the ASEAN Chairmanship with renewed fervor, a sense of purpose,” the President said.

“It is an opportunity to exercise leadership to advance the regional development agenda of forging a rules-based community that puts citizens’ welfare at the heart of every initiative. The Philippines counts on your full support,” he said.

Responding to the President’s toast, the dean of the diplomatic corps, Archbishop Guissepe Pinto, thanked the President for inviting them to join the traditional gathering at the Palace.

“Mr. President on this festive and traditional occasion of exchanging greetings at the beginning of the year, the chiefs of the diplomatic missions and the international organizations accredited to the government of the Republic of the Philippines cordially express their best wishes,” Pinto said.

Pinto mentioned Typhoon Nina that recently devastated Bicol region and left many people homeless and without jobs.

As those communities recover through their own efforts, the international community expressed solidarity to help them rebuild, he said.

“Mr. President, the word “solidarity” means much in this country and we, members of the Diplomatic Corps, feel that we are part of the Filipino people, its hospitality and its determination to face the challenges of advertising growth, adversities brought about by forces of nature or arising from events that take place,” he said.

Pinto also wished for greater progress and prosperity for the Philippines and good health and success for President Duterte and his officials.###PND

President Duterte signs executive order for full RH program implementation
President Rodrigo Duterte signed an Executive Order aimed at ensuring that the government meet the needs of Filipino families for appropriate family planning support.

The full title of Executive Order No. 12 is “Attaining and Sustaining Zero Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning Through the Strict Implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.”

In a press briefing in Malacañan on Wednesday, January 11, National Economic and Development Authority director general Ernesto Pernia said the signing of the EO would allow women of reproductive age to achieve their desired family size and number of children rather than having more children than they want or they can afford and provide for adequately.

He said this is exactly the essence of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law Act (RPRH Law), the implementation of which was hindered by a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court (SC).

With the issuance of the EO, Pernia said they hope that the Supreme Court will act expeditiously in lifting the TRO.

Pernia said that while pro-life groups oppose the use of contraceptives, the government thinks differently, adding that the law is pro-life, pro-women, and pro-economic development.

“So the link between family planning or the implementation of the RPRH law is critical — the link between family planning and economic development, socio-economic development is quite intimate,” he said.

The government targets to reduce poverty from 21.6 percent as of 2015, to 14 or even 13 percent by the end of the Duterte administration, Pernia said.

Pernia also said that while the TRO is still in effect, the issuance of the EO is beneficial because it allows local governments to get around with the TRO by letting NGOs implement the RPRH Law since the private sector is not covered by the SC ruling.

For his part, Commission on Population (POPCOM) executive director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez said the President is calling on the three major agencies: DOH, DILG and POPCOM to assist local governments in implementing the RPRH Law by mapping out and identifying women who have a need for family planning.

“So there is a plan to, in the next six months for local governments to go out in the field, to do house-to-house visits, identify those in need of family planning, working with all these agencies,” Perez said.

Perez added that President Duterte wants agencies to support at least the two million women in the poorest sector for them to get family planning services and to reach at least six million women by the end of the administration. ###PND