The Social Security System (SSS) has announced a calamity relief package for members and pensioners affected by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the Central Visayas region yesterday, particularly the provinces of Bohol and Cebu that have been officially declared in a state of calamity.

SSS Vice President and Officer-in-Charge for Lending and Asset Management Division May Catherine Ciriaco said that in an emergency meeting earlier today, the Social Security Commission approved a three-part SSS calamity relief package for the earthquake victims. The relief package includes early renewal of salary loans, relaxed loan terms for home repairs and advance release of three months’ worth of pensions.

“Covered by the relief package are affected members and pensioners residing or employed at the declared calamity areas, which at present includes Cebu and Bohol provinces. Those in other areas affected by the earthquake, as declared or will be declared by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council or ‘NDRRMC,’ are also eligible for the calamity relief package,” Ciriaco said.

The first component of the package is the Salary Loan Early Renewal Program or “SLERP,” which will be open for application until November 29, 2013. The SLERP enables current borrowers to renew their loans ahead of the prescribed one-year period from start of loan payment under the regular Salary Loan guidelines.

The SLERP for calamity-stricken members also allows borrowers who had earlier availed themselves of the SSS Loan Penalty Condonation to renew their loan, despite the earlier imposition of sanction on loan renewal. The SSS will also waive the one-percent service fee under the SLERP program to enable members to get higher loan proceeds.

Ciriaco said SSS pensioners for retirement, disability and survivorship residing in the declared calamity areas can apply for advance release of the three-month pensions by submitting an accomplished application form with a certification of their residence in the declared calamity area from their barangay. For partial disability pensioners with a fixed duration for their monthly pension, the SSS can advance the balance of up to three months of their disability pension.

“SLERP and advance release of pensions both aim to give affected members and pensioners immediate cash to help them recover from the disaster. The funds may be used for basic and urgent needs such as food, medicines and clothing,” she said. “The covered members and pensioners can file their applications for SLERP and advance release of pensions on or before November 29.

Given the earthquake’s extensive damage to property, the SSS also relaxed its terms for the House Repair and Improvement Loan Program for members living in the declared calamity areas. The deadline of application will be one year after SSS’ issuance of the corresponding circular to give members enough time to prepare the required documents.

Under the calamity relief package, house repair borrowers can avail themselves of reduced annual interest rates of the SSS Direct House Repair and/or Improvement Loan Program, which will be fixed at six percent per annum instead of the existing nine percent interest rate. To qualify, members must be 60 years old or below and have at least 24 monthly contributions, at least three of which within the 12-month period immediately prior to the month of filing their application. The regular application fee, which is up to P3,000, will also be waived.

Ciriaco advised members and pensioners in Cebu to transact at SSS Service Offices at Robinsons Malls in Mandaue, Cebu and Lapu-Lapu. The SSS Cebu Branch will undergo assessment of its structural stability by both government and private engineers in the aftermath of the earthquake.

“For the safety of members and pensioners, SSS has enlisted the assistance of public and private engineers to check the effects of the earthquake on our Cebu branch,” she said. “The SSS has also approved a donation of P250,000 to the Philippine Red Cross – Cebu Chapter to further help in relief efforts at the affected areas.”