— The Social Security System (SSS) collected a total of P94.2 billion from January to December 2012, reflecting a nine percent jump from the P85.9 billion that it collected in 2011. Of this total collected amount, P854.82 million came from members’ contributions in Western Mindanao.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr., who is in this city along with other SSS officials for an SSS Regional Visit, said Western Mindanao’s contribution collection in 2012 showed a 7.5-percent increase from its P794.96-million collection in 2011.

“Total SSS benefit disbursements in 2012, on the other hand, reached P84.4 billion, up by two percent from the P82.7 billion we paid out in 2011,” de Quiros added. “Surprisingly, in Western Mindanao, benefit disbursements showed a 5.5-percent decrease in 2012, at P1.25 billion, down from P1.33 billion in 2011.”

Overall, the pension fund showed a positive financial performance in 2012, with the surplus between contribution collections and benefit payments reaching P9.8 billion. In comparison, the difference between SSS contributions and benefits in 2011 amounted to only P3.4 billion.

“As the surplus between contributions and benefits is one of the indicators of a pension fund’s financial health, I am pleased to report that SSS continues to be in a very healthy financial condition,” de Quiros said.

SSS’ investment income also posted positive numbers, earning more than P32.2 billion in 2012, a 7.9 percent increase from the P29.8 billion SSS earned in 2011. Meanwhile, SSS operating expenses showed a decrease, from P7.5 billion in 2011, to just P7.2 billion in 2012.

In terms of member loans, the SSS Salary Loan continued to be a source of financial support from members, with total loan grants in 2012 reaching P20.58 billion, a huge 30-percent jump from 2011’s salary loan releases of P15.79 billion. Of this amount, P159.28 million went to 13,391 Western Mindanao-based members.

“Over 1.28 million members availed themselves of Salary Loans in 2012, up by 21 percent from the 1.05 million members granted loans in 2011,” de Quiros said. “We could surmise that members really needed extra funds last year due to the natural calamities that hit us then.”

The state-run pension fund has six SSS branches in Western Mindanao located in the cities of Zamboanga, Dipolog and Pagadian, as well as in the municipalities of Ipil and Jolo, and in Basilan province.

Recounting the pension fund’s increased efforts to cover more informal sector workers, de Quiros said that in the past three weeks, the SSS signed agreements with three workers’ associations and accredited them as SSS servicing partner agents to help boost SSS coverage of farmers, entrepreneurs and home-based workers in various Luzon provinces.

“We are hoping that workers’ associations here in Zamboanga City, as well as the rest of Mindanao, will also be among our roster of SSS servicing partner agents in the near future,” he noted. “As SSS’ partners, they will also be ensuring the social protection of their own members.”

An association accredited as an SSS servicing partner agent assigns representatives who will receive and screen applications for SSS membership, salary loans and funeral benefits of its own members. In return, the SSS will pay the association a set processing fee for every approved SSS transaction.

Another option for workers’ associations is to join the AlkanSSSya Program, an innovative microsavings scheme, launched in 2012, that offers a simple and affordable means to save for SSS contributions. Under the program, a large metal cabinet with individual compartments stores the AlkanSSSya participants’ daily savings, which would then be collected monthly by SSS account officers and credited towards the members’ SSS contributions.

As of December 2012, the SSS had signed on 49 informal sector groups (ISGs), totaling over 11,000 potential members, to join the AlkanSSSya Program, with 27 groups more lined-up for accreditation. These ISGs include associations of tricycle operators and drivers, fisherfolk, farmers, and market vendors, among others.