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PIA Press Release

PGMA's Statement at the 50th anniversary Celebration of the Social Security System

SSS Building, Quezon City, September 3, 2007

Happy Golden Anniversary, SSS! Thank you for half a century of service to the Filipino people.

We also congratulate Cora de la Paz for being the first Asian to be elected president of the International Social Security System!

Six and a half years ago, SSS was facing financial collapse and your funds were in danger of running dry by 2015.

We embarked on a radical reform program and now SSS is back on its feet, stronger and more resilient than ever, and with the credibility regained ranking 3rd in the polls of institutions effectively fighting corruption.

Our administration's anti-corruption advisor, Tony Kwok, the former anti-corruption czar in Hong Kong who was a key player in efforts to clean up corruption there, believes that perceptions cloud the reality of our progress in the Philippines. SSS is one shining example of the fact that we have undertaken strong and steady effort to curb graft through criminal justice, administrative controls and procedural reforms. This effort of the government focuses on the revenue agencies that, like SSS, have improved their performance in recent years; and agencies that are in the frontline of day-to-day public services. We take this issue very seriously and with the accomplishments of agencies like the SSS, we believe perception will match reality in a few short years. This is a problem that has plagued the Philippines, as it has plagued other countries, for generations; and, as the SSS experience has shown, it won't be eliminated overnight but progress is being made.

The reform of SSS was part of the hard-fought economic reform battles through which the Philippine economy has finally broken loose from its historic legacy of lethargy. New revenues, including increases in contributions for SSS, better collection and a crackdown on remittance cheats along with fiscal discipline has put the SSS and the Philippines on a path to permanent, sustainable economic growth and stability.

Thanks to the SSS and other outstanding institutions, the rate of poverty is down, employment is up and our education and healthcare services to the poor vastly improved. We have a long way to go, but only through a strong economy and strong institutions like the SSS can we improve the plight of the poor. We have turned the corner on our economy. New revenue sources are here to stay, for the national government and for the SSS: our national budget will be balanced next year, while SSS assets have risen to P248 billion and its investment income P15.58 billion in the last six months; the peso is strong. This allows us to invest in job creation, better healthcare and more educational opportunities. Most notably and most felt, this has allowed us to increase the SSS pensions twice in the last 12 months; 10% in September last year and another 10% last month, SSS 50th anniversary present to the Filipino people.

We have also condoned penalties and restructured housing loans, allowing 6,000 SSS members to keep their homes, enabling the speedy grant of housing loans to calamity victims and various loans for sickness and other personnel emergencies, and the fast-track processing and quicker delivery of retirement and disability pensions.

I ask Thelmo Cunanan and the SSS board to extend the condonation program for six more months. This is social payback.

We are proud of the discipline of SSS to focus on financing viability, sound investments, quality service, and corporate culture. We are committed to making sure we use the new resources these developments are generating to provide vital social and economic needs. It has been a tough road, both for the national government and for the SSS, but long ago I made a decision not to sacrifice long term gains for short term political expediency. And Cora de la Paz long ago made the same decision for the SSS, backed up fully by Thelmo Cunanan and his board.

SSS reflects the new level of maturity and stability our economy has reached with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in two decades.

New social security schemes are imperative as we modernize our economy.

I encourage your strategic plans to expand your membership through mandatory coverage of all OFWs, especially seafarers and amend the SSS Charter, particularly to institutionalize actuarial standards and formulas.

Last week, I issued a directive to push government and private financial institutions and NGOs to increase lending to micro, small and medium enterprises which are the biggest job generators. Thank you for your recent announcement of a P1 billion special window for MSME lending in celebration of your fiftieth jubilee.

SSS at 50 has done a good job balancing your vital functions of capital build-up and support for national social programs along the mandate of providing a lifeline to your members. I am confident that you are up to the challenge of continuing to be financially viable and living up to your anniversary theme as our people's KAAGAPAY, KAIBIGAN AT KABALIKAT. MAGPAKAILANMAN. Thank you! (PIA) [top]

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