Manila – The Institute of Labor Studies (ILS) participated in the webinar hosted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) titled “Addressing the Needs of Senior Citizens in the Philippines,” last July 23 via the Cisco Webex platform.
The webinar featured the PIDS discussion paper titled “Silver Linings for the Elderly in the Philippines: Policies and Programs for Senior Citizens,” authored by Celia M. Reyes, Arkin A. Arboneda, and Ronina D. Asis. The study examined the situation of Senior Citizens in the Philippines, and the country’s policies and programs for Senior Citizens (SC).
The study also identified gaps in the SC’s access to social protection programs, particularly in 2017 where only 5.7 million SCs or only 7 in every 10 senior citizens are covered in at least 1 public income support program (SSS, GSIS, Social Pension), and that only 3 out of 10 SCs is covered by Philhealth. Although majority of PhilHealth members in the lowest income deciles enjoy free health insurance coverage (non-paying members), greater effort is still needed to realize the universal coverage stipulated in the Universal Health Care Act.
The research revealed that the PH elderly need access to health services. As of end-2019, 3.8 million SCs are Social Pension beneficiaries, representing 40% of all seniors. With a poverty incidence of 13%, only about a third of the poor SCs receive social pension based on 2017 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) data. Also, while all seniors are supposed to be Philhealth members, not all are aware of it, and with limited benefits, there is still considerable out of pocket expenses for hospitals and outpatient services.
As part of the recommendations, the study suggested the need for promoting the participation of women in social security systems since contributory pension programs of the government are only accessible for those previously employed, and being employed is seen to improve women’s access to social protection programs when they reach the age of 60. She also promoted the improvement in the targeting system for social pension for indigent senior citizens by establishing a comprehensive database of SCs. More importantly, the study suggested the increase of monthly stipend for indigent SCs as the current amount of 500 pesos is not adequate to sustain the daily needs of indigent senior citizens, particularly if given only every six months. The study also recommended for the government to revisit the amount and the frequency of payouts of the social pension program.