MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Joel Villanueva on Monday filed a bill seeking to defer the scheduled increase of the Social Security System's (SSS) contribution rate for its members in the event of a pandemic.
Under Villanueva's Senate Bill No. 1965, any increase in the contribution rate of SSS members shall be "suspended" during a pandemic and shall be "implemented on the year following the cessation of the pandemic."
"Given the current employment situation of the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to ensure that workers and companies are able to fully recover and have enough resources to do so," Villanueva, who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, said in the bill's explanatory note.
"The respite from increased expenses, arising from higher social security contribution, will provide businesses and employees with much needed income to survive and recover during a pandemic," he said.
The filing of Villanueva's bill comes after the SSS announced that it would hike its monthly contribution rate to 13 percent starting this year, increasing the monthly contribution of members by about P70 per month.
Malacañang is "closely monitoring the decisions being made by SSS,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
“Ang tinitingnan d’yan is ano iyong kinakailangan na rate para maging viable pa rin ang buhay ng SSS,” Roque told reporters in an online briefing.
(What is being studied there is what rate is needed so that the SSS fund life will be viable.)
"Alam natin, ayaw natin magbayad nang mas mataas na premiums. Pero kung mawawala naman iyong benepisyo natin kung kailan kakailangan natin ang SSS benefits, masasayang din ang pagtayo ng SSS,” he said.
(We know that we don't want to pay higher premiums. But if our SSS benefits disappear when we need them, the establishment of SSS will be wasted.)
SSS Chairman and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez earlier said the rate increase will secure the long-term viability of the pension fund, and expand coverage and benefits for members and their beneficiaries as provided for under Republic Act No. 11199 or the Social Security Act (SSA) of 2018.
"Any drop in collections may lead to cash flow and liquidity issues. This could endanger the SSS’ ability to provide its members and their beneficiaries with benefits and loan privileges," he said.
Some lawmakers have repeatedly criticized the SSS for hiking its premium rate instead of improving its collection scheme to raise its pension fund.
In 2017, the SSS said failed to collect some P24 billion from its members as 6 out of 10 members failed to remit contributions.