MALOLOS, Bulacan — The Social Security System (SSS) has attained double-digit growths in total benefit releases and contribution collections in Luzon, with both reflecting an increase of 11 percent for the first 11 months of 2015.

SSS Senior Vice President for Luzon Operations Group Josie G. Magana said that benefit releases for Luzon-based members from January to November 2015 grew by P2.13 billion, for a total of P21.58 billion which was 11 percent higher than P19.45 billion disbursed for the same period in 2014.

“Pension payments of P19.06 billion for 484,137 pensioners comprised 88 percent of total benefit disbursements in Luzon. We also disbursed benefits of P1.81 billion for 226,745 covered employees, P458.46 million for 74,125 voluntary members, P205.54 million for 27,275 self-employed members, and P52.26 million for 6,428 overseas Filipino workers,” Magana noted.

Apart from the P19.06 billion disbursed for SSS pensions for retirement, disability and death, lump sum payments for these same contingencies amounted to P78.70 million, P128.49 million and P557.45 million, respectively. The SSS also paid out P674.39 million for maternity claims; P150.18 million for sickness benefits, medical services and rehabilitation; and P932.87 million in funeral grants.

Meanwhile, contribution collections in Luzon from January to November 2015 reached P25.20 billion, which was P2.54 billion higher than the P22.66 billion total for the same 11-month period in 2014.

“Contributions for employees under large accounts, which refer to employers with at least 100 workers, amounted to P12.91 billion. It was eight percent more than our P11.98 billion total for the same 11-month period in 2014. Over half of total Luzon collections also came from large accounts,” Magana said.

Branch account collections — which covers contributions from individually-paying workers such as self-employed and voluntary members as well as payments from employers with less than 100 employees — rose to P12.29 billion, or 15 percent more than the P10.68 billion total during the first 11 months of 2014.

Magana said SSS collection initiatives such as partnerships with local governments, cooperatives and microfinance institutions (MFIs) aim to facilitate easier and more convenient remittance of contributions, especially for self-employed and informal sector workers in hard-to-reach areas and industries.

“For example, parts of Luzon have limited access to banks and payment facilities. Hence, we have started accreditation of cooperatives and MFIs, which have established networks and designated personnel to collect payments from their own members and clients, to become SSS collecting agents,” she explained.

The state-run pension fund has 6.81 million registered members in Luzon, which accounted for about one-fifth of the total 33.62-million SSS membership. A total of 121 local SSS offices are located in Luzon, including 61 branches, 33 Service Offices and 27 representative offices.

Magana, along with SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio S. de Quiros and other senior SSS officials, visited Meycauayan and Malolos in Bulacan for a series of consultations and forums with SSS stakeholders including members and employers, branch employees, and the local press.

“The SSS visit to Bulacan also featured the blessing of the relocated SSS Meycauayan Branch, which we moved to a more accessible site with better office amenities for the comfort and convenience of transacting members, beneficiaries and employers in the area,” Magana said.

SSS Meycauayan, now located at the Esperanza Mall along MacArthur Highway, serves over 5,000 employers and about 149,000 members from 89 barangays in the city. The branch has a monthly average collection of P27.73 million, while it handles a daily average of 3,927 in transactions.