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OFWs can choose to pay lowest mandatory SSS contribution, says official

16 October 2018

By Daisy CL Mandap

Yes, it is true that all overseas Filipino workers could be compelled to pay monthly contributions to the Social Security System starting next year. But no, they should not pay the maximum contribution of Php2,400 if they do not want to.

This was the statement made by Lester Paul S. Mata, the new SSS representative in Hong Kong, when asked for a reaction on Oct. 16 to criticisms about the newly passed legislation mandating all OFWs to pay for social security.
Mapa says OFWs can pay only Php960 monthly 

Under the Social Security Act of 2018 passed by both houses of Congress on Oct 4, the mandatory SSS membership to be paid by all OFWs, both land-based and sea-based, will go up by 12% next year (from the current 11%), and will gradually increase, reaching 15% by 2025.

According to statements issued by Migrante International and its Hong Kong affiliate, United Filipinos in Hong Kong, the new law could result in OFWs being forced to pay Php2,400 every month from next year. By 2020, this would go up to Php2,714 monthly, and so on.

Mata said this is not the case, because OFWs could still choose to pay the lowest monthly contribution of Php960 per month. However, this lowest contribution pegs the OFW member’s monthly salary at only Php8,000, so all benefits that will accrue to the member will be based on this figure.

Mata said SSS officials expect the bill to be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte before the end of the year, so it could be enforced in early 2019. 

He said he has yet to get a copy of the proposed law himself, but confirmed that one of its key features is a requirement that all departing OFWs must pay at least three monthly contributions before they could leave for their job destinations.

That means that even if they choose to pay the lowest monthly contribution, they would still have to shell out at least Php2,880 in SSS payments before being able to fly out to their job destinations.

That will be on top of other fees they will have to pay, including for training and other recruitment related fees, and mandatory insurance, which is now pegged at USD$144 for land-based OFWs and USD$200 for seafarers for every two-year contracts.

The new law is packaged as providing additional benefits to members, including compensation for those who suddenly lose their jobs. This payment amounts to half the salary credit, up to two months only.

This means that an OFW who pays the minimum contribution will be entitled to only Php4,000 per month x two months, or a total benefit payment of Php8,000. Those who choose to pay the highest contribution of Php2,400 a month could only hope to get a maximum of Php20,000.

Migrante has hit out at the new mandatory fees, saying the Duterte government will be amassing hundreds of billions of pesos at the expense of OFWs already burdened by numerous state exactions.

“Forcing all OFWs to be covered as compulsory SSS members is outrageous since this exaction will be on top of the US$144 mandatory insurance recently enacted under the Duterte regime through POEA,” said Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando.

Unifil-Migrante chairperson Dolores Balladares also hit out at the forced collections, accusing the government of using OFWs as milking cows.

“Parang tokhang na tuloy ito, papatayin ang mga OFWs sa dami ng mga bayarin. Bakit ayaw tantanan ang mga OFWs?,” she asked in an earlier interview.

Migrante has vowed to exert all means to stop the bill from becoming law.

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