Salceda champions expanded benefits for Seniors, PWDs; earns sectoral leaders’ thanks in joint House panel hearings

Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Sarte Salceda (photo: facebook)

Leaders of various groups representing senior citizens (SCs) and persons with disabilities (PWDs) have hailed House Ways and Means Committee chair, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda for championing their expanded benefits cause during the recently concluded 60-day marathon House joint panel hearings that netted significant gains for both sectors.

The hearings involved three House committees – Ways and Means, chaired by Salceda; Senior Citizens Affairs panel, headed by Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes; and PWD affairs committee led by Rep. Alfel Bascug. Invited to it as participants were national leaders of  senior citizens and PWD organization, among others.

The marathon joint panel hearings were conducted at the behest of House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, following reports of inconsistent implementation of senior citizens and PWD discounts from what the laws provide. Salceda presided over the hearings as chairman, with Ordanes and Bascug, both party-list representatives, as co-chairmen.

In a statement during the hearings,  Franklin Quijano of the National Commission on Senior Citizens (NCSC) thanked Salceda for what he described as the “most productive congressional hearings on senior citizens’ rights” their Commission participated in under his leadership. 

Liga ng OSCA [Office of Senior Citizens Affairs] ng Pilipinas Executive Secretary Nonita Red  also thanked Salceda for the comprehensive hearings on senior citizens issues and for strongly championing expanded benefits for their sector. “We thank our very own Congressman Joey Salceda for championing the rights of senior citizens all over the country,” said Red who also heads the OSCA in Oas town, Albay. 

Salceda said the gains achieved by the initiatives of the joint committee marathon hearings include: 1) the expanded basic necessities discount for Senior Citizens from P260 per month to P500 per month; 2) ease of access in online ride-hailing and delivery platforms like Grab, Angkas, and FoodPanda; 3) a dedicated SC and PWD discount application system with MERALCO; 

4) The 40% discount granted by Starbucks for seniors and PWDs; 5) the 20% additional top-up commitment on RFID load for senior citizen users of SMC Tollways; 6) free parking slots for senior citizens in major malls; 7) the applicability of the senior citizen discount on top of special price offers by establishments;

8) Amendments to the implementing guidelines of government programs like TUPAD and Government Internship Program to allow free participation of Senior Citizens; 9) expansion of Philhealth benefits packages especially in primary and rehabilitative care for PWDs; and 10) allowing electronic alternatives to the booklet system used for availing of senior citizen and PWD discounts. 

The Joint Committees also approved substitute measures to House Bills 10061, 10062, and 10063, expanding benefits for senior citizens and PWDs during the joint hearing.  

“I congratulate my co-chairs, Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes, and Rep. Alfel Bascug, for their roles in our very productive discussions. We have approved three bills, clarifying that discounts apply even with promo prices, introducing the SC and PWD discount on parking, the 15% utilities discount for lifeline consumption items, the additional 25% deduction on labor expenses for PWDs and SCs, and access to free training programs by the government,” Salceda said. 

“I also thank DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian for his able leadership of the NCDA and for working with the NCSC to pursue more viable and livable benefit packages for seniors and PWDs, and for spearheading the necessary inter-agency cooperation on their welfare,” he added. 

During the hearings, Salceda insisted on retaining the additional deductions on labor expenses to encourage the hiring of seniors and PWDs which are designed to create employment opportunities for their sectors. 

“This is the best benefit package we got because it helps to maximize their contributions to society while also giving them the dignity of decent employment,” Salceda stressed, adding that their expanded privileges and improved compliance on them “by keeping the private sector on their toes with these benefits” will give more meaningful benefits to all players.

“Based on our calculations, as a result of increased compliance and the expansion of the discount on basic goods, the hearings alone will result in as much as P112.6 billion in more benefits for seniors and PWDs this year alone,” he said.

“From the date the Speaker instructed us to hold hearings, to the approval of the substitute bills, we finished our jobs in 60 days,” Salceda pointed out.