SSS open to talks with OFWs on mandatory coverage

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 11) — The Social Security System (SSS) said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would have a say on how mandatory pension coverage would be implemented.

"We should be partners in doing this for the good of our workers," said Roberto Bautista, SSS assistant vice president for bilateral agreements, in an interview with CNN Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed in February the Social Security Act of 2018, which would make SSS coverage mandatory to land-based and sea-based OFWs.

An OFW advocacy group spoke out against the new policy, which imposed a new pre-departure requirement.

"Sana isipin din wag naman bagong umalis ang worker ang dami nang kumukulekta. Sana maging stable muna ang isang OFW and then let the mandatory contribution kick in," said Toots Ople of the Blas Ople Policy Center.

[Translation: I want them to consider that the OFW might have to pay even before they leave the country for work. We want the OFW to be stable before the mandatory contribution kicks in.]

Ople said mandatory SSS coverage could be good for OFWs, but pointed out the law's flaws such as identifying OFWs as self-employed and making manning agencies middlemen in filing contributions.

The SSS previously held two public forums on the Social Security Act of 2018 in March.

The pension agency is expected to hold more consultations in the wake of criticism from OFW groups.