Workers assured of soft loans

Published by rudy Date posted on March 19, 2009

As jOB losses mount, the Social Security System will make available P500 million in emergency loans for its members who have been displaced by the global economic crisis.

The state pension fund made the announcement as Japan’s Fujitsu Limited said it was cutting 1,750 jobs in its computer disk-drive-producing plant in Calamba town of Laguna.

SSS president Romulo Neri said the pension fund is also looking at increasing its salary credit ceiling to P35,000 starting next year from P15,000 to give more benefits to its members at a time when the credit crunch is most felt.

“We found some funds we can use for the purpose of emergency loans. We had a problem before of trying to source the funds for these loans because we have reached the ceiling of 10 percent for emergency loans. We’re very grateful for the employees’ compensation program,” Neri said.

SSS earlier announced that it can no longer give loans to its unemployed members because it already exceeded its 10-percent investment limit for salary, calamity and emergency loans.

The agency administers the employees’ compensation program along with the Government Service Insurance System, a pension fund for state employees.

Neri said the government had utilized funds from the employees’ compensation program during crisis times in the past.

“We have cleared this with the legal vote of the Labor Department and our legal department, and they both agree this is within the legal framework,” he said.

But the SSS chief admitted that there could be risks of non-payment but stressed the state pension fund will remain healthy largely due to liquid reserve funds.

SSS members who have been jobless since Jan. 1 can avail themselves of loans of up to P15,000, payable within three years with a 10-percent interest per annum.

Members who have been separated or retrenched from employment from Jan. 1 onwards must meet the following requirements to avail of the loan facility:

-must have paid at least 12 monthly contributions prior to month of separation from employment;

-must be in good standing and must have paid at least six contributions for the calendar year 2008 and/or updated in loan amortization as of Dec. 31, 2008;

-must not have been previously granted refund of contributions, retirement or total permanent disability benefits; and

-must not have been disqualified by the Social Security Commission as a result of filing fraudulent loan application with the SSS.

Neri said the amount of the loan shall be based on the highest monthly salary credit for the past six months prior to month of separation from employment but must not exceed P15,000.

For a one-month loan, members must have accumulated 12 monthly contributions and for a two-month loan, members must have accumulated 24 monthly contributions prior to month of separation from employment.

As many as 45,000 Filipinos have lost their jobs since the global crisis broke out.

The government expects 800,000 people to lose jobs, mainly in the electronics and clothing sectors, before the downturn eases.

About nine million Filipinos, or 10 percent of the population, were without jobs or underemployed.

Fujitsu Ltd. joined other Japanese companies in reducing its work force in the Philippines, blaming the global economic downturn.

Workers have been offered early retirement packages to leave Fujitsu Computer Products Corp., which makes disk drives, said Ernesto Espinosa, a manager.

“We launched a voluntary leaving program and the reason for this is that because of the global recession,” he told Agence France-Presse. Fujitsu announced in Japan last month that it would sell an 80-percent stake to Japanese rival Toshiba Corp.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque told reporters the government had been notified of the plan, which takes effect on April 18.

Espinosa said Fujitsu failed to save the jobs despite earlier efforts to cut working hours and overtime pay, which drastically reduced employees’ salaries.

“Because of that we have no other choice but to offer voluntary separation,” he added.

About 2,900 other workers will remain with the company, based in Calamba town. Joyce Pangco Pañares, Manila Standard Today with AFP

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