TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte — The Social Security System (SSS) surpassed the P6-billion milestone for both contribution collections and benefit payments in Southern Mindanao in 2015 on the back of double-digit increases resulting from the agency’s initiatives to expand its reach in the region.

SSS Senior Vice President for Mindanao Operations Group Eddie A. Jara said that the pension fund disbursed a total of P6.44 billion for members’ benefits in 2015, up by 10 percent from P5.84 billion the previous year.

“The growth in benefit payouts is paralleled by the 10 percent increase in the number of beneficiaries in Southern Mindanao, rising from 224,995 in 2014 to 246,576 last year. Payments for regular pensioners amounting to P5.77 billion made up 90 percent of total benefit releases in the area for 2015,” he noted.

While the majority of disbursements were paid out to pensioners, SSS Southern Mindanao offices also released a total of P456.56 million for regular employees, P112.58 million for voluntary members, P88.97 million for self-employed individuals, and P6.59 million for overseas Filipino workers.

Apart from regular pensions, disbursements under the Social Security (SS) Program included initial or lump sum payments of P10.98 million, P179.24 million and P14.82 million for retirement, death and disability, respectively; P120.85 million for maternity; P40.42 million for sickness; and P294.92 million for funeral grants.

Non-pension payments under the Employees Compensation Program — which provides financial support for employed members with work-related contingencies on top of the benefits offered the regular SS Program – comprised of P88.00 million in initial or lump sum payments for death and disability, P1.29 million for sickness, medical services and rehabilitation; and P1.29 million for funeral grants.

Meanwhile, contribution collections in Southern Mindanao last year reached P6.09 billion, higher by 12 percent from the P5.45 billion total in 2014. Remittances by large account employers, referring to those with over 100 workers, rose by seven percent from P2.93 billion in 2015 to P2.74 billion in 2014.

Collections from branch accounts – which pertain to employers with 100 workers or less, as well as household, self-employed, voluntary and OFW members — surged by 20 percent from P1.72 billion in 2014 to P2.06 billion the following year.

“We urge employers to be mindful of their responsibilities under the Social Security Law, including the prompt and correct remittance of their workers’ monthly contributions. Issuance of billing and demand letters and filing of cases are carried out against those who refuse to comply with the law,” Jara said.

Coverage campaigns that seek to provide SSS protection to more workers, especially those who are considered self-employed or voluntary members, also helped boost SSS collections in Southern Mindanao. For example, SSS has partnered with local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies (NGAs) for the social security coverage of their job order (JO) and contractual workers.

Through SSS efforts, over 9,000 JOs and contractual workers in 43 LGUs and NGAs in Southern Mindanao are now active SSS members under the E-AlkanSSSya Program. In Tagum, or instance, the SSS has an average monthly collection of P1.3 million from nearly 3,500 JOs and contractuals, Jara said.

“We are glad that the LGUs and NGAs responded to our call in order to provide these JO and contractual workers with much-needed social security. We also sought out collection agreements with cooperatives and microfinance institutions, including the Maragusan Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative and CARD Inc. which both operate in the region, so that their members and clients become active SSS members as well,” he said.