The Social Security System (SSS) announced that it had disbursed a total of P1.46 billion in relief grants to members who were affected by the string of natural and man-made calamities that hit the country last year.

SSS Vice President and Officer-in-Charge for Lending and Asset Management May Catherine Ciriaco said that more than 80,000 members and pensioners had received relief assistance in the form of salary loans and advance pensions under its calamity relief packages, which it unveiled following the onslaught of typhoons Labuyo and Santi, super typhoon Yolanda, southwest monsoon (habagat), tropical storm Maring, the Bohol earthquake, and the Zamboanga City siege, all in 2013.

“We opened five separate calamity relief packages last year, consisting of early salary loan renewals, preferential terms for new salary loans, easier house repair loan terms, and advanced release of pensions. As of March 2014, before the availment period ended on April 30, we already granted more than P1.2-billion in salary loans and released P225-million worth of advanced pensions,” Ciriaco added.

The first component of the SSS calamity relief package, the Salary Loan Early Renewal Program (SLERP) and eased-down terms for new Salary Loans, registered a total of 67,023 borrowers, which translated to total loan releases of about P1.24 billion. Out of this amount, the SSS granted loans of P477 million to 22,013 borrowers affected by Labuyo/habagat/Maring; P67 million to 5,030 borrowers from strife-stricken areas in Zamboanga; P8 million to 378 borrowers affected by Santi, P277 million to 15,320 borrowers hit by the Bohol earthquake; and P408 million to 24,282 borrowers devastated by Yolanda.

The SLERP allowed affected members to renew their existing salary loans earlier than the prescribed date under regular SSS loan guidelines. Current sanctions imposed on borrowers in affected areas who had earlier availed themselves of the SSS Loan Penalty Condonation Program were also lifted. New loan borrowers benefited from the waived one-percent service fee under the relief package.

“The second component of the calamity relief package focused on the needs of our pensioners,” Ciriaco noted. “Except for super typhoon Yolanda, the rest of our calamity packages offered the advanced release of three months’ worth of pensions for retirement, disability and death survivorship pensioners. Pensioners in Yolanda-stricken areas, due to the extent of destruction they suffered, were offered six month’s worth of pensions,” she explained.

A total of 13,746 affected pensioners received their pensions in advance, which amounted to P225 million total releases. Majority of the releases were for Yolanda-hit pensioners, which made up 90 percent of the total amount or P204 million.

“The impact on the lives of our members after all these calamities was particularly severe. Many of them were displaced, lost their jobs or means of livelihood, or suffered deaths in their families. We sincerely hope that the assistance we made available helped them get back on their feet,” Ciriaco said.

As part of its corporate social responsibility program, the state-pension fund also donated a total of P500,000 to the Philippine Red Cross for the victims of the Zamboanga siege and super typhoon Yolanda, as well as P2.52 million to Gawad Kalinga in support of its rehabilitation projects for families affected by Yolanda. These amounts were sourced through the corporate SSS Calamity Fund, as well as by the voluntary donations of SSS employees and management.