GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Benefit disbursements to Social Security System (SSS) members in Southern Mindanao reached P2.22 billion from January to May this year, which was eight percent higher than the P2.05 billion released for the same period in 2011.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr., who is in the city with senior officials to touchbase with employers and workers in the region, said the increase in benefit payouts in Southern Mindanao was higher than the national average of five percent.

“Monthly pensions of about 112,600 members in Southern Mindanao amounting to P1.61 billion comprised 72 percent of the disbursements. Apart from pensions, SSS also released about P609 million in lump-sum and short-term benefits from January to May 2012 in the area,” he said.

Lump-sum payments included P228.98 million for retirement, P114.73 million for death and P22.23 million for disability. Other benefit payouts in Southern Mindanao were P104.21 million for funeral grants and P138.94 million for maternity, sickness and medical services.

The SSS provides benefits that help members cope with contingencies such as old age, death, sickness, disability and maternity. Benefits for retirement, death and disability are paid out as monthly pensions or in lump sum, depending on the member’s number of contributions.

De Quiros said overall benefit releases from January to May 2012 hit P35.74 billion, up by five percent from P34.10 billion during the first five months of 2011. Maternity benefits of P1.77 billion posted the highest rate of increase of 11 percent from P1.60 billion last year.

Retirement claims, which made up half of total releases, rose six percent to P18.08 billion while P12.59 billion in death claims made up 35 percent. The SSS also paid P1.45 billion for disability, P1.11 billion for funeral grants and P740 million for sickness and medical claims.

Enhancements to the Annual Confirmation of Pensioners (ACOP) program, which took effect this year, resulted in savings for the pension fund of P18.63 million annually due to the cancellation of 584 accounts of pensioners who have died, re-married, recovered from disability or re-entered employment.

“As for Southern Mindanao, the enhanced ACOP brought in savings of nearly P155,000 per month from 60 cancelled pensions in the area. Over half of the amount involved accounts of 29 pensioners who were discovered to have passed away, thanks to the ACOP,” de Quiros noted.

The headquarters of SSS operations in Southern Mindanao is located at its division office in Davao City, which oversees the agency’s network of branches in Bislig, Digos, Kidapawan, Mati, Tagum, Toril, General Santos, Cotabato, Koronadal and Tacurong.