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Two women take charge at SSS HK

28 March 2016


Despite having a market share that is the envy of other attached agencies in the Consulate, the Social Security System is still looking at recruiting more members from the 200,000-strong Filipino community in Hong Kong.
That is no mean feat, especially for the two lady officers who have recently been tasked to oversee the Hong Kong operations of the state pension fund for private-sector workers.
Asked how she gauges her Hong Kong job, Lucille Blesilda L. Simbol, who is at the helm of the SSS HK office said: “It is very challenging. This is a challenging post, kasi marami iyong mga OFW na nabibigyan namin ng service, pero fulfilling din po dahil alam naming nakakatulong.”
SSS’s dynamic duo:  Lucille Blesilda L. Simbol
and Rhea S. Balicas.

With only three other people working with her, Simbol’s team faces a formidable job of expanding the coverage of the fund beyond its current membership of between 42,000 to 50,000.
Simbol, a 40-year-old Tarlaqueña, gets help from her deputy Rhea S. Balicas, 37, who joined the team in Hong Kong only last August. Two male staff who have been with the SSS office for far longer time assist in entertaining members’ queries and attending to their needs.
The team of four take turns manning the service counter at the Consulate’s public areas, and doing desk work in their office in an adjacent area.
On weekends, the two ladies still manage to find time to sit at some borrowed shops in Worldwide House to attend to members, in between doing their laundry and other household chores.
However, Simbol, who was assigned to take over the helm in April last year, takes greater satisfaction in serving members in the SSS office at the Consulate.
“Hong Kong is like a full-service branch, so all transactions take place here. There are new members applying for numbers so they could make their first contribution. We also serve all those applying for benefits, namely sickness, maternity, loans, disability, funeral claims, and death claims,” said Simbol.
The Hong Kong office also processes claims for retirement benefits, and assists housing loan applicants by giving them a list of requirements.
“But for the filing, we have a so-called housing and asset management section so, we assist them in filing their applications with the nearest SSS office in the province where their lot is located,” Simbol said.
Her deputy, Balicas, noted that there had been an increase in loan applications over the past two months.
“Since January, nag-a-average po kami ng mga 5 a day, so 25 (sa isang linggo),” Balicas said.
But Simbol attributed the growth to OFWs taking out personal loans in preparation for their vacation this summer for their children’s graduation. She said the loans could be paid by check drawn against a Philippine bank for ease of transfer to the intended beneficiaries.
Simbol said it would take her team more effort to educate the OFWs to enroll in the pension fund and understand the benefits that they would get when they have fully paid up contributions or when they retire.
“Right now we’re advising them to opt for the mid-range Php1,100 per month contribution or higher so that they could receive a bigger monthly pension when they retire,” she said.
At that rate, the SSS calculates a member’s income as Php10,000 a month, which is also used as a basis for the computation of  the monthly pension.
“For those paying the higher rate of Php1,700, the basis of computation is Php60,000, so they would get five or six times the amount they had paid up as pension from us,” said Simbol.
“Yung sample namin kasi, kung iyong isang member nagbabayad ng Php1,700 for 10 years, when they retire halimbawa at kinumpleto ang 120 months, ang makukuha nila ay Php6,000 a month. So ilang multiples na siya,” she said.
Those who are still young stand to get a much higher pension if they opt to go for the Php1,700 contribution plan.
“Meron po kami kasing napapa-pensiyon na nasa Php12,000 hanggang Php14,000 a month. Iyon po ang mga nakapagbayad ng 20 years na contribution or higher,” said Simbol.
Those who, for whatever reason, lost their jobs could continue paying contributions as self-employed or voluntary members, meaning they shoulder the burden of paying the monthly contribution as both employer and employee.
But if they find a new employer they could revert to paying just the employee’s share.
Hong Kong is the first overseas post for Simbol and Balicas, who are both single, so they feel less vulnerable to homesickness than the majority of migrant women driven by economic need to part with their families.
But they admit that like the OFWs, they find it difficult getting adjusted to Hong Kong life.
Simbol has been with SSS for 12 years and came here from the branch office in Pangasinan. She holds a degree in business management from the University of the Philippines in Clark.
Balicas has been working with SSS for six years and was last posted in Iloilo before being moved to Hong Kong. She is a business administration graduate of Silliman University. – VBL

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