BUSINESS groups in Cebu have joined the unified appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to create an executive order (EO) to defer the increase in the Social Security System (SSS) monthly contributions of employees.
“Our chamber is joining calls to postpone SSS contribution hike to support majority of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who can barely make ends meet now, with the very depressed market. They are struggling to pay their rent and salaries, and many are in the verge of closure,” said Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu.
Early this year, the 200-member group of Filipino-Cebuano Business Club, had already asked for the deferment of the contribution hike.
FilCeb chairman Rey Calooy said now is not the right time to implement such increase as many are still not out in the woods yet.
“The pandemic has badly hurt the MSME sector. Many aren’t back in business yet,” said Calooy, noting that most members of FilCeb have implemented various working schemes, like work from home, rotation work schedule and skeletal workforce just to survive today’s economic difficulties.
“Once the World Health Organization declares the end of this pandemic, they can implement the hike,” he said.
Top business, trade and labor leaders issued a joint appeal to Duterte to immediately release the EO deferring the increase in SSS contributions.
The Sept. 27 joint letter, signed by the heads of 10 private sector and workers’ groups, said the issuance of the EO is necessary to allow embattled MSMEs to continue to operate their businesses and provide jobs amid the prolonged challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Duterte on May 26, 2021, approved Republic Act 11548, which gives him the authority to defer the scheduled increase in SSS premium contributions for the duration of the declaration of state of calamity.
The joint letter posted in Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (PCCI) Facebook page, said the signing of RA 11548 sends a positive signal to employers and employees that “government empathizes with business in its efforts to keep jobs and livelihoods to prevent further economic losses and the resulting social problems.”
“However, four months after the enactment of the law, the Executive Order implementing the Act has yet to be issued, even as the higher SSS premium already took effect last January 2021,” the statement added.
SSS members’ monthly contributions were increased to 13 percent of their incomes at the start of the year, higher than the current 12 percent contribution drawn from their salaries.
“It is in this light that we are constrained to write the President for urgent action on this pending request for the deferment. We have yet to fully re-open and many have already lost their income sources either permanently or temporarily,” the joint letter said.
“Postponing the implementation of the higher SSS premium will be a critical recovery measure by helping sustain the cash flow especially of the very vulnerable MSMEs. It will also serve as a very concrete government contribution to the National Employment Recovery Strategy program that is implemented with private sector.”
The letter was signed by the heads of trade and business groups, namely Benedicto Yujuico, president of the PCCI; Edgardo Lacson, chairman of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines; Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc.; Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Edgar O. Chua, chairman of the Makati Business Club; and Aurelio Montinola III, president of the Management Association of the Philippines.
It was co-signed by labor leaders Raymond Democrito Mendoza, president of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines; Jose Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers; Daniel Edralin, chairman of the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa; and Rene Magtubo, national chairman of the Partido Manggagawa.
On Sept. 10, Duterte through Proclamation 1218 extended the validity of the declaration of state of calamity for one more year, or until Sept. 12, 2022. (KOC)