MANILA – The House Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization on Thursday approved a proposal seeking to authorize President Rodrigo Duterte to defer the scheduled hike in Social Security System (SSS) contribution rates this year.

The panel, chaired by Parañaque City Rep. Eric Olivarez, approved the unnumbered substitute bill consolidating several measures granting the President the power to suspend increases in SSS contribution rates in times of national emergencies including this coronavirus pandemic.

Under Republic Act 11199, or the Social Security Act of 2018, the SSS contribution rate is expected to increase from 12 percent in 2020 to 13 percent in 2021.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, a principal author of the bill, warned that increasing the rate of contributions of SSS members will “strikingly undermine the recovery effort of everyone suffering from job losses, wage reduction, business closures, and health-related issues.”

He noted that as of October 2020, the unemployment rate in the country still stands at 8.7 percent, which is equivalent to 3.8 million Filipinos in the labor force.

Velasco said Filipinos have barely recovered from the losses and difficulties brought by Covid-19.

“Even today, while some restrictions may have been lifted, most livelihood, businesses, and other sources of income remain shuttered and closed, while many Filipinos remain unemployed,” he said.

Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva, another author of the bill, said the deferment in the SSS rate hike means an undiminished level of disposable income for Filipino workers and employers which will help them cope and survive these hard times and aid them to get fully back on their feet.

“We understand this legislation will have financial and fiduciary implications on the collections of the SSS agency. However, at the end of the day, all these things are within the ambit of public service which means that the welfare of our countrymen should be the paramount and non-negotiable consideration of our actions especially now that our people are braving challenging times,” Villanueva said. (PNA)