'Seniors' stipend must be raised'

An opposition member of Congress has suggested that the monthly stipend for poor seniors—those 60 years old and above—be increased from the present P500 to P2,000.

“The target is to extend the monthly subsidy to an additional 800,000 impoverished seniors. This explains the 20-percent or P3.9-billion increase in the allocation,” Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr., House appropriations committee member, said.

“We want the monthly stipend for poverty-stricken seniors bumped up to P2,000, considering that Congress has not increased the original P500 since 2010,” Campos said.

“Congress has to move quickly in raising the pocket money for hard-up seniors who are now extremely vulnerable to hunger due to runaway food price inflation,” Campos warned.

According to the HelpAge Global Network, the number of senior citizens in the Philippines is rising faster than the total population. 

“In 2000, there were 4.6 million senior citizens [60 years or older], representing about 6 percent of the total population,” the HelpAge Global Network said. 

In 2016, officials said the budget hike plan, once approved by the Congress, would increase the number of elderly-beneficiaries from the current 1.4 million to 2.8 million in 2017.

In one of the consultations held by the Department of Finance among civil society groups, the Coalition of Services for the Elderly Inc. shared Secretary Carlos Dominguez’s earlier assessment that assistance for indigent seniors would be better served through targeted subsidies, such as social pensions, rather than providing them with exemptions via the Value Added Tax when dining out, which mostly only rich seniors enjoy.

Campos said Saturday the government would spend P23.18 billion next year to pay for the P500 monthly allowance of up to 3.8 million senior citizens tagged as “qualified indigents” by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Campos, a deputy minority leader, said the P19.28 billion that the DSWD allotted this year for the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens covers only up to three million qualified beneficiaries, according to Campos.

Under the Expanded Senior Citizens Law of 2010 that first pegged the monthly grant for indigents at P500, Campos said Congress was supposed to, but never reviewed the amount every two years for possible upward revision. 

“If government cannot afford to provide P2,000 monthly to every indigent senior all at once, we should at least offer the amount to those who are 70 years old and above,” Campos said.

Campos is proponent of House Bill 2653, which seeks to jack up to P2,000 the monthly pension for destitute seniors at least 70 years old.
In batting for the passage of his bill, Campos invoked the mandates of the 1987 Constitution for the State “to care for the elderly through just programs of social security, and to provide improved quality of life for all.”

“An allowance of P2,000 per month, or P24,000 per annum, would serve as a bigger helping hand to needy seniors at least 70 years old and who have absolutely no one else to turn to for financial aid,” Campos said.

Under the law, indigent seniors refer to citizens 60 years old and above who do not receive any regular pension from elsewhere; lack permanent income or compensation, or regular and appropriate financial support from family members; and are listed as qualified beneficiaries by the DSWD.

The DSWD is required to ensure that the P500 monthly stipend is given directly to payees.

The department is permitted to spend only up to seven percent of the funding allocation for administrative purposes, said Campos.

Topics: Congress , Makati City , Rep. Luis Campos Jr. , HelpAge Global Network , Department of Finance
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