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House body OKs PRRD power to suspend PhilHealth, SSS premium rate increase

THE twin bills filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco seeking to grant President Rodrigo Duterte the power to suspend the scheduled increases in contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) “in times of national emergencies” hurdled the committee level in the House of Representatives.

The House committees on health and on government enterprises and privatization separately approved House Bill (HB) 8316 and 8317 allowing the President, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Finance as chairpersons of PhilHealth and SSS, respectively, “to suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in premium rates in times of national emergencies when public interest so requires.”

Velasco expressed his gratitude to the House panels and their members for the swift approval of the bills that both aimed at alleviating the financial burden faced by Filipinos amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“We thank our colleagues for recognizing that urgent actions such as postponing PhilHealth and SSS contribution hikes are necessary to provide much-needed relief to our kababayans as the country continues in its fight against COVID-19,” Velasco said.

He added: “These are extraordinary times, thus the remedy needed to further unburden our countrymen are also extraordinary. These are necessary measures that need to be taken in order for us in government to extend help to those who need them the most.”

The health committee, headed by its chair Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan and vice chair Bataan 2nd District Rep. Jose Enrique “Joet” Garcia III, approved HB 8316 on the motion of Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

HB 8316 got unanimous support from resource persons from the PhilHealth, Department of Health, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Labor and Employment, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, and various labor groups.

Meanwhile, the Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization, chaired by Parañaque City Rep. Eric Olivarez, will be coming out with a report on the approval of HB 8317 by Monday, January 25.

The Committee on Health is also expected to submit its committee report on the approval of HB 8316 to the plenary next week.

Velasco earlier warned that increasing the rate of contributions of SSS members will “strikingly undermine the recovery effort of everyone suffering from job losses, wage reduction, business closures, and health-related issues.”

He noted that as of October 2020, the unemployment rate in the country still stands at 8.7 percent, which is equivalent to 3.8 million Filipinos in the labor force.

According to the House leader, Filipinos have barely recovered from the losses and difficulties brought by COVID-19.

“Even today, while some restrictions may have been lifted, most livelihood, businesses, and other sources of income remain shuttered and closed, while many Filipinos remain unemployed,” he lamented.