towards universal pensions in the Philippines

[O]nly about a third of seniors currently receive pension. Eighteen percent receives a contributory pension …, while 15% benefit from the … [the] social pension program for indigent senior citizens. ….

The scheme should cover all 1.2 million indigent senior citizens who are 60 years old and above, as … mandated by … the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

This budget was, however, limited to only cover those age 77 and above. ….

“Other countries like Thailand, has recognized already the limitations and challenges of targeting, that’s why they opted for universal,” said Emily Beridico, COSE executive director.

A central question is, of course, whether the government could fund such a commitment.

The price tag, however, is lower than people might think. For example, a universal pension of P750 [US$16] for all Filipinos aged 60 and over would cost P69 billion or 0.5% of the GDP. Put in context, this is only a little more than the P56 billion government subsidy to only about 500,000 of military and uniformed pensioners ….

“We are aware there is money for fully covering the 60 years old indigent and expanding it further to all older Filipinos,” said Dioscorro Benalla, president of COPAP [Confederation of Older Person Associations of the Philippines]. “If government has allotted 56 billion pesos for a minuscule population of pensioners, we find no reason to deny … [benefits to any portion of] the entire older people population. Besides, who paid taxes?”

“We have been paying taxes since we were born and has been contributing to pension. We deserve every cents of it from the moment we turn 60 until we die,” Benalla stressed.

Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE),”Advocates call for improved senior pension for Pinoys“,, 2 October 2015.

According to HelpAge International, the Philippines’ means-tested 500 peso (US$11) social pension reaches only 4% of Filipinos aged 60 or older, at a fiscal cost of 0.03% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). I don’t know what accounts for the difference between HA’s estimate of 4% coverage and COSE’s higher estimate of 15% coverage. In any case, it is clear that the vast majority of older Filipinos have no access to pension income – contributory or non-contributory.

Previous TdJ posts on this topic can be accessed here and here.


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