SSS expands coverage to farmers in partnership with Irrigators Association

CABANATUAN, Nueva Ecija — Nearly 200 farmers here will benefit from Social Security System (SSS) coverage under a new agreement between the SSS and a local irrigators association that will subsidize the farmers’ SSS contributions and entitle them to bigger SSS benefits and loanable amounts.

The Deep Well Sumulong Irrigators Association (DWSIA), which is headed by its President Maximo Hernal, signed its memorandum of agreement with the SSS before 1,000 farmers during a general assembly of irrigators associations (IA) in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija on January 29, 2013.

“Under the agreement, the DWSIA will provide a counterpart amount that matches its member’s monthly SSS contribution. In effect, the subsidy will double the amount of the farmers’ SSS contributions,” said SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. “We hope to replicate this innovative arrangement across Central Luzon to boost social protection of some 69,000 farm workers who are members of irrigators associations in the region.”

SSS contributions range from P104 to P1,560 every month depending on the member’s monthly earnings. If the farmer saves P156 as SSS contribution, the DWSIA will add P156 as counterpart subsidy, for a total of P312 that will be credited to the farmer’s SSS account.

“The subsidy serves as additional motivation for farmers to save up for their future. The more they save, the more they will receive in counterpart funds for their contributions,” de Quiros explained. “The arrangement with DWSIA also ensures convenient and regular remittance of the farmers’ SSS premiums because the association will do it for them.”

Each IA is comprised of farmers, many of whom serve as both landowner and farm worker. The funds for the SSS subsidy will be taken from cash incentives granted by the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) to IAs that have shown efficient collection of farmers’ payments and active maintenance of their irrigation system.

The DWSIA, which has 185 farmer-members tending a total of 218.55 hectares in farmlands, is among the 131 IAs under Division III of the NIA-Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System (UPRIIS). Hernal serves as DWSIA head and overall President of the Federation of IAs under Division III.

“The SSS-DWSIA tie up augurs well for our campaign to expand SSS coverage of workers in vulnerable sectors such as farmers,” de Quiros added. “We are happy to gain the support of DWSIA and we hope to forge similar agreements this year to cover more farmers under the NIA-UPRIIS in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Bulacan.”

De Quiros noted that the agreement also provides for DWSIA’s accreditation as an SSS servicing partner agent. This enables the association to receive and screen its members’ applications for SSS numbers, salary loans and funeral claims, which a DWSIA representative will then turn over to SSS.

“As an SSS servicing partner agent, DWSIA can certify the ‘fact-of-death’ of its own members. This will help survivors of deceased DWSIA members with their SSS funeral claims,” he said. “Another advantage for DWSIA is the processing fee that we will pay the association for every approved SSS transaction.”

Covered areas under the NIA-UPRIIS include the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan, which account for a vast share of rice production in the country. The NIA-UPRIIS has a total of five divisions and covers a total of 391 IAs in Central Luzon that represent over 69,000 farmers.