After expanding its network of tie-ups with informal sector groups, microfinance institutions and cooperatives, the Social Security System (SSS) has now rolled out new linkages with local government units (LGUs) in “unbanked” island provinces that do not have accessible banking systems and payment facilities. This is an alternative means to sustain active SSS membership by making regular payment of contributions and loans convenient and within reach.

“SSS partnerships with LGUs, especially those in island provinces and far-flung areas, strengthen our campaign to provide social protection to workers and their beneficiaries regardless of geographic location and economic status,” noted Josie Magana, SSS Vice President for Luzon Operations Group.

The LGUs in Alabat, Perez and Quezon – which are fifth-class municipalities comprising Alabat Island in Quezon province – have started collecting payments for SSS contributions and loans within the first quarter of 2014 as part of their respective Collection Agency Agreements (CAA) with SSS.

Alabat Island, SSS’ pilot area for its CAA with LGUs, has an estimated labor force of 24,500, with fishing and farming as common sources of livelihood. It also has a flourishing cottage industry producing native bags, rice cakes, camote chips, cashew polvoron and espasol, among others.

“In the past, Alabat residents had to take a 50-minute RORO ride to Atimonan, Quezon to remit their SSS payments. One-way trip costs P95, and the RORO is scheduled to depart for Alabat only at 10 a.m. and go back to Atimonan at 12 noon,” Magana explained. “Although small boats are available an hour ahead of RORO schedule, Alabat residents are taking risks riding them due to the water current.”

“Alabat residents who miss the scheduled return trips are forced to stay overnight in Atimonan, incurring additional costs for food and lodging. But with an SSS payment facility right at their LGU, the money they can save may be used instead to augment their SSS contributions,” she added.

Employers, self-employed and voluntary members can now pay at the Municipal Treasurer’s Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. As part of the CAA, the LGU will report their transactions to the nearest SSS branch on a daily basis via email to facilitate the quick posting of members’ payments.

“By accrediting LGUs as SSS collecting agents, we help these workers from previously overlooked areas become covered – and more importantly, become active SSS members – so that they and their loved ones can avail themselves of SSS benefits in times of financial need,” Magana said.

Apart from bringing social protection closer to their constituents, accredited LGUs also benefit from the P6.00 service fee per successful transaction to be paid to them by SSS under the CAA.

The SSS has also incorporated security measures in the new LGU-based payment system to protect the remitted contributions and loan amortizations of members, Magana noted.