GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 March) – At least 5,000 poor senior citizens in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao are set to receive a social pension worth at least P6,000 annually from the national government as part of the full implementation this year of Republic Act (RA) 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act.
Fatima Abobakar, operations division chief of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 12, said the beneficiaries were among the identified “first priority” recipients in the country for the mandated social pension, which will start this year.
She said the “first priority” recipients, which were identified by local social welfare offices and the Offices of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) in the region, mainly cover indigent senior citizens with ages 80 years and above.
Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
“This is aimed at improving the living conditions of our senior citizens, meet their daily subsistence and medical requirements,” she said.
Through the social pension, Abobakar said the national government is hoping to reduce the incidence of hunger among elderly residents and also help protect them from neglect, abuse and deprivation.
The national government earlier allocated some P871 million for the release of the social pension this year to the “first priority” beneficiaries.
Data from the DSWD’s National Household Targeting System showed that at least 84,000 of the 5.4 senior citizens in the country have ages 80 years and above.
Based on Administrative Order No. 3 or the “procedural guidelines on the implementation of the social pension for indigent senior citizens,” the initial social pension beneficiaries from the region will receive a P500 monthly subsidy.
It said the social pension would be released on a quarterly basis and would be deposited in the Land Bank ATM accounts of the beneficiaries.
Elda Grace Balaro, social welfare officer of DSWD-12, said the OSCAs in the region will take the lead in the implementation of the social pension in coordination with the provincial, city, and municipal social welfare and development offices.
“They will validate, assess and verify the list of the selected indigent senior citizens and will prioritize those who are bedridden, frail, sick and with disability as well as those without source of income or support from their families,” she said.
Balaro said the potential social pensioners would be selected through a strict verification process with various government agencies.
The National Social Pension Management Office will forge a memorandum of agreement with the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System and the Armed Forces and Police Mutual Benefit Association Inc. to ensure that the beneficiaries are non-holders of pensions from them, she stressed.
Balaro added that after validation of the verified list of potential social pensioners by the DSWD regional and national offices, OSCA and the local social welfare offices will notify the approval of the social pension subsidies to the beneficiaries. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)