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House panel starts hearing OFW pension system proposals

MANILA, Philippines — Proposals to have a separate pension system for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are now rolling at the House of Representatives where a committee has started deliberations.

The House committee on overseas workers affairs, headed by Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo, has begun the hearings of four bills pushing for such pension system for migrant workers.

“The hearing is consistent with the government’s thrust and underscores the guidance of House Speaker Martin Romualdez, who recognizes the invaluable contributions of OFWs to our nation,” he said before the weekend.

The measures, which include House Bill 8574 sponsored by Salo, seek the creation of “a separate and dedicated social security and retirement system” specifically for OFWs.

Salo noted that “one of the central pillars of this initiative is the intention to address the social protection needed by our modern-day heroes.”

“This pension program seeks to provide them with a lasting solution for social security and welfare,” he added.

During the hearing, the Social Security System (SSS) reported that of the 1.3 million OFW-members, only around 540,000 are actively contributing for their pension despite compulsory coverage.

The lawmaker underscored this is a cause of concern and “requires immediate attention.”

“We sought to identify the challenges faced by SSS in implementing mandatory coverage so that we can address them in the proposed measure,” he said.

While the amended SSS law requires OFWs to be mandatorily covered and treated as self-employed members, he pointed out that there is a clamor from OFWs for “a distinct pension system exclusively designed for them.”

He added this shall have a framework that acknowledges their “unique circumstances, vulnerabilities and contributions to our nation’s growth.”

Salo said they will look into a proposal of the Department of Foreign Affairs on the “portability and exportability of social security rights.”

The panel committed to ensure that if the proposed measure is approved and enacted, OFWs will be “able to carry their social security rights even if they move or work in another country, and that they will be able to receive their benefits