Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to expand its social amelioration program (SAP) to include all families with senior citizens to help them cope with financial struggles due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“An overwhelming majority of our senior citizens are poor. The quarantine exposes and magnifies their physical and financial vulnerabilities,” Hontiveros said in filing of the proposed Senate Resolution No. 370 after the extension of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas until May 15. The said proposed resolution urges SAP expansion to prioritize older persons who live with their spouses, the unaccompanied, and the homeless.
“Kailangang may sapat na suporta para kay lolo’t lola. Our indigent elderly are the most vulnerable in this pandemic,” Hontiveros urged, citing Department of Health data that 68% of deaths from COVID-19 are the elderly.
“The SAP should ensure that they are able to purchase their basic necessities and prescribed medicine, or support families in these conditions. This will also make sure they stay at home as much as possible rather than trying to look for alternative income outside the home which would expose them to the coronavirus,” she added.
Hontiveros urged that even those who receive pension under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 should be included in the SAP. “Pension alone is not enough,” she emphasized. “A massive number of senior citizens who were left out of the initial DSWD memorandum only receives P5,000 or less a month under SSS and GSIS pension programs and only as mere supplement to their informal income,” she explained.
“The exclusion of pensioned senior citizens ignores the fact that many of them who still work in the informal economy face even graver difficulties because they are deprived of livelihood amid this crisis,” she added.
The Senator also sought the SAP expansion to include senior citizens even if they receive support from their children.
“Their non-inclusion is counter-productive to the goals of the Social Amelioration Program. Individuals supporting senior citizens already face difficulty in making ends meet prior the economic stress brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hontiveros said citing data from the 2018 Longitudinal Study of Ageing and Health in the Philippines. “This is not a reliable source of support during this crisis. Pwedeng natigil o nabawasan ang suportang ito dahil sa pandemic,” she claimed.
“The inclusion of all senior citizens in the SAP is an appropriate response to the urgent needs of our elderly,” she said.
“Siguraduhin natin na walang naiiwan sa ating mga lolo’t lola,” she concluded./Stacy Ang