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Saturday, February 6, 2010

1,000 Grandparents to March to Mendiola, Philippines

Some 1,000 senior citizens are scheduled to march from Morayta to Mendiola in Manila Monday morning to press President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to immediately sign the Congress-ratified Expanded Senior Citizens’ Act, it was learned Sunday.

“Pabago-bago ang ihip ng hangin sa Malacanang (We’ve been hearing different things from Malacanang). Before, it was a priority bill. Then right after both Houses of Congress ratified it, Malacanang said the President might veto it. Then, the Palace said the President realized the benefits the measure would give senior citizens and announced that it has again become a top priority,” said Fransiskus Kupang, executive director of Coalition of the Services for the Elderly (Cose).

“We are entitled to the additional benefits specified in the bill. We will fight for our rights to better social protection. We will show our determination with a march to Mendiola. The bill has to be signed,” he said in a statement e-mailed to media outfits.

The Expanded Senior Citizens’ Act, which seeks better social protection for the country’s 7 million elderly, would among other things

* exempt senior citizens from the 12-percent value added tax in the purchase of medicines and other services;

* give indigent senior citizens a monthly stipend of P500;

* give free medical and dental services, diagnostic, and laboratory fees in all government facilities;

* give full PhilHealth insurance coverage and free anti-flu and anti-pneumonia vaccines to indigent senior citizens; and

* give a 5-percent discount in water and electricity utilities; and a P2,000 death benefit assistance.

Cose members will be joined by members of the Confederation of Older Person Association of the Philippines and the multi-sectoral coalition Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay (KAMP or Life of Dignity for All Campaign), which champions social protection for all—the urban and rural poor, farmers and peasants, fisher folk, women, children, and the elderly—and of which Cose is a member.

“We support our lolos and lolas (grandparents) in demanding that this bill be enacted immediately. This measure would go a long way for our lolos and lolas, especially as many of them are being pushed to poverty by the still raging financial crisis. Our lolos and lolas are entitled to society’s care and protection,” said Von Mesina of KAMP.

Kupang said 3 million of the 7 million Filipinos 60 years and above live in poverty and 900,000 are “desperately poor,” citing figures of the National Economic Development Authority.

However, he said, only 1 percent of the P1.4-trillion budget in 2009 was allocated for the elderly and the disabled. “There is enough in the 2010 national budget of P1.54 trillion for the elderly,” he said.

Malacanang had argued that the bill could dampen VAT collection and complicate the VAT collection system. The Department of Finance had also estimated P54.4-million in foregone revenues for the first year of the measure’s implementation.

Kupang, whose organization Cose has been lobbying for the bill since three years ago, said helping the elderly cope with the difficulties of growing old is not only appropriate, but the right of older people who have offered their more productive years to the country as they continue to contribute in nation-building even in their old age.

“We Filipinos pride ourselves as loving and caring of our elderly. Our national policies should reflect this Filipino value,” he said.


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