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Opinion

Gov’t must take care of our old folks

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak - The Philippine Star

The proposed P2,000 across-the-board increase in the monthly pension of Social Security pensioners is looking to reach House plenary by mid-November. This is good news. I am glad to see that the administration appears to finally be approving this measure that is sure to impact the lives of so many of the elderly in the country who rely on their pension to help them pay for their daily expenses.

As it stands it has become that much harder for people to save for their twilight years. What was once considered good enough for retirement before is no longer the case now with prices of everything just continuing to go up. Most of the working age folks now in their late 30’s and above have a difficult time even setting anything aside for their later years. Not to mention, even if they are able to set aside savings all it takes is one sickness for all of that to be immediately wiped out.

I have always advocated that the government needs to put better plans in place to help take care of their older citizens. While some perks senior citizens receive are great, they are not enough to really help them cover their necessary expenses such as food, shelter, and medicines. It’s no secret that health expenses just continue to go up the older we get. Despite people trying to live a healthy lifestyle, all the stress and the bad eating and the lack of sleep from our younger years will eventually catch up and we end up paying for it as we get older.

It’s become very rare to meet someone past the age of 60 who is not on some form of maintenance medication whether it’s high blood pressure or diabetes. And the price of these monthly medications adds up over time. Personally, I also believe that along with a hike in the pension, the government should consider better healthcare programs for the elderly. After all, HMOs won’t cover you past a certain age and everyone knows that’s when you need the coverage the most.

In either case, I’m just glad to hear that this particular initiative looks like it is going to push through. After all, at this point there is no justifiable reason for further delays as both the Senate and the House already approved the proposal during the 16th Congress. At the time the only problem was the former president who vetoed the proposal.

I remember the reason for the veto last time was that a hike that high could bankrupt the SSS system, resulting in a bigger problem down the line. However, I believe that with proper budgeting and fund allocation this should not be the case. And if the bill has already been thoroughly studied I am sure they looked far ahead to see what the effect of such an increase would be on the SSS fund in the long run. I don’t believe lawmakers would willingly approve a measure that would prove catastrophic. Perhaps the former president was being overly cautious.

Besides, it seems difficult to believe that we can’t afford an increase in the payout to the citizens whose hard earned money went into the fund in the first place, but we can afford large salaries and big bonuses for SSS executives. In the end that hardly seems fair despite the fact that they claim funds for the two come from separate revenue streams. There should be a good happy medium where pensioners can enjoy a reasonable pension and SSS executives can still be properly and fairly compensated.

The bill will now have priority status at the 17th Congress. And as stated in the news, it was already thoroughly studied in the previous Congress so should be approved with or without the presence of SSS officials. I am hoping for the best.

* * *

In other news, it appears as though President Duterte’s most recent state visit to China was a success for him and the large delegation of businessmen who accompanied him. Of course, this is according to drumbeaters who try to showcase and highlight only the very best. While it outwardly seems like a good thing that we are getting China’s support and investment we also have to understand that this is a win-win situation for them as well, as they are getting several concessions from us including infrastructure projects and the like. Plus the government does not seem to be going after them for not following the ruling of the International Court concerning the West Philippine Sea. I hope we don’t just roll over on that because we want to get in good with China.

Honestly the only thing that really rang out during the President’s trip was his bold statement about severing ties with the United States. I thought this was a terrible public statement to make and don’t quite understand what the president is trying to achieve with his open hostility towards one of our biggest allies. While, once again, his spin masters did their very best to clarify that the president did not mean severing ties completely and that the Philippines would still be involved with the US, I think it was completely unnecessary to rattle the country so much by making such a bold claim.

Some may say that what the president said were “just words,” but we all know the power that words can have. I heard that several US companies who are invested in the country were more than a little concerned about their presence and investments here, and understandably so. It seems like these days more often than not, people are hurriedly trying to calm things down after the president drops one of his surprising statements.

It’s getting quite tiresome to see the cycle happening like clockwork. He says something shocking, people freak out, his communications group tries to smooth things over by retracting what he said or explaining it, and then the cycle starts all over again. I have always wished President Duterte the very best and I still do, I just hope he considers the power of his words and doesn’t just shoot off the cuff.

And again, while his China trip seems successful, I hope he doesn’t stop there. There are many allies to be had in South East Asia. I look forward to what happens on his state visit to Japan.

 

TONY KATIGBAK

Philstar
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