The budget for the government’s pension for indigent senior citizens will more than double next year to P18 billion, which would allow the enrolment of an additional 1.613 million 60 year olds and above to a program that grants each a cash aid of P6,000 a year.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, who has successfully lobbied for the expansion of the program in the past, welcomed the budget hike but called for the reduction of the 7 percent administrative cost ceiling so that more seniors can be included.
From P8.7 billion this year, the program’s budget will shoot up to P18 billion, towing up the number of beneficiaries from 1.382 million to 2.995 million, Recto said.
The budget is lodged in the appropriations of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which runs the program.
If the funding hike will be approved by Congress, Recto said 2017 will be the third straight year that the budget for the senior pension will be increased.
“It will have the highest and the fastest increase among government social programs, a six-fold increase from P3.1 billion in 2014. It is an impressive trajectory. This is one program which has been put on steroids,” Recto said.
The distribution of a P500 monthly pension—or P6,000 yearly—to indigent seniors is made pursuant to Republic Act No. 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, sponsored by then Senator Pia Cayetano.
Qualified to receive the stipend are senior citizens who are frail, sickly, or have disabilities; are not receiving pension from the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), or veteran’s pension; and do not have a permanent source of income or regular support from relatives.
The pension is said to be distributed every quarter through cash payment by DSWD Field Offices or city or municipal social welfare and development offices.
For the 2015 budget, Recto and then Senate Finance Committee chair Senator Chiz Escudero worked to increase the program’s budget by P1 billion, to P5.9 billion, allowing the DSWD to take in almost a million beneficiaries.
For the 2016 budget, Recto, who chaired the Senate Finance subcommittee in charge of the DSWD budget, sponsored the increase in funding from the proposed P7.5 billion to P8.7 billion.
Recto urged the DSWD and its partner agencies to implement the program without kinks nor delays.
“Maliit lamang na halaga ito pero malaking tulong para sa mga senior citizen natin na walang napagkukuhanan ng ikabubuhay, kaya sana huwag nang maantala,” he added.
By increasing the budget for this program, we are embracing the idea that all indigent seniors 60 years old and above must be covered by the proposed allocation. The policy is No Senior Left Behind,” Recto said.