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Bontoc, Mountain Province – A total of 758 indigent senior citizens in this capital town received their Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) grants amounting to P3, 600 each from the national government through their Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) cash cards on July 13-14, 2021, at the Bontoc Municipal Capitol grounds.
According to Jackielyn Guitangan, the Team Leader of Social Welfare and Development (SWAD)-Mountain Province, the UCT is a one-time cash subsidy provided to qualified poor households and individuals to help them cope with the adverse economic impact of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. In 2018, a cash assistance of P2, 400 was provided to the beneficiaries. The P3, 600 deposited in the cash cards of the beneficiaries are their UCT grants for the year 2020.
Officer-in-Charge Aracelli Shane Bayanos of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) mentioned that the UCT beneficiaries are the indigent senior citizens who are also recipients of the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens (Socpen) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). However, not all Socpen beneficiaries are eligible to receive the UCT grant. She explained that their office consolidates the applications of indigent senior citizens and submits the list to the DSWD- Region. It shall be the DSWD- Region to assess and validate who are qualified to avail of the UCT grants.
In his message before the UCT beneficiaries, Mayor Franklin Odsey remarked that the protection and welfare of the elderly has always one of the priorities of the government. He acknowledged the value and contribution of the senior citizens in nation-building which starts at home and the community.
A senior citizen himself, Odsey said that the grants provided by the government are also a means of giving back to the elderly.
Also, the mayor appealed to the senior citizens to receive and complete their jabs of the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and the people around them.
Sangguniang Bayan (SB) members Viola Okko and Alsannyster Patingan supported the pronouncement of the mayor.
Patingan shared to the UCT beneficiaries the actions and undertakings of the Bontoc Local Government Unit (LGU) responding to the needs of the elderly.
Sponsored by SB member Okko who chairs the Committee on Women, Children, Family, Social Services and Civil Organization, and co-sponsored by SB member Patingan who chairs the Committee on Laws, the council passed the Senior Citizens Code because they believed that it is the government’s mandate to protect and promote the welfare of the senior citizens.
Among the notable support of the Bontoc LGU to the senior citizens is the increase of yearly cash assistance of P10, 000 to each of the 16 barangays of Bontoc from the P8, 000 given in the previous years, and P20, 000 to the Municipal Federation of Senior Citizens Association. It shall be used for the programs and activities of the senior citizens.
An Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) has been established. Ruby Mangagley has been appointed as the OSCA Head for a term of three years without reappointment but without prejudice to an extension not exceeding three months, if exigency requires. As the OSCA Head, she is entitled to an honorarium of P4, 000 per month, and his office shall be allotted a yearly appropriation of P15, 000 for traveling expense purposes.
Part of the code is the establishment of the Senior Citizens Incentive and Awards Program aimed to recognize the best performing barangay senior citizen associations. Plaque or certificate and a cash incentive of P10, 000 shall be awarded to the 1st place, P7, 000 for the 2nd place, and P5, 000 for the 3rd Place.
Aside from this, a death benefit assistance of P2, 000 shall be given to the nearest surviving relative who took care of the deceased senior citizen. However, it is required that the deceased senior citizen must be a resident of Bontoc and that the wake and burial must have been done within the municipality. The death benefit assistance shall increase to 10% every after three years.
It was also stipulated in the code that every first Monday of October of every year is designated as “Senior Citizens Day” which shall be celebrated appropriately in consultation and coordination with the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office, OSA, and the Municipal Federation of Senior Citizens. All selected senior citizens shall act as Senior Citizens Officer for a Day (SCOFAD) in all elective (including ex-officio) and appointive (heads of offices including the Sangguniang Bayan Secretary) positions; with a salary grade of at least 24. Thus, the SCOFAD- Mayor shall be entitled to an incentive of P2, 000, Vice Mayor – P1, 750.00, Sangguniang Bayan member – P1, 500, and Department Head – P1, 500.
Further, the code adheres to the grant of 20% discount and exemption from the value-added tax, if applicable, on the sale of goods and services from all establishments, for the exclusive use and enjoyment or availment of senior citizens.
In addition to this, a space at the Bontoc Municipal Capitol has been designated as a Center for Senior Citizens complete with a Person with Disability (PWD) ramp, a kitchen, and restrooms. He added that the center shall serve as a place where the elderly can hold their meetings, practice their songs and dances; and among other activities.
On behalf of all the senior citizens in Bontoc, Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) Head Ruby Mangagley thanked the Bontoc LGU under the leadership of Mayor Odsey for their continuous support for the wellbeing of the elderly.
She voiced that it is during the administration of Mayor Odsey that the Senior Citizens Code was enacted in 2019 of which benefits and incentives provided to the elderly increased.
Mangagley emphasized that the Senior Citizens Code passed by the Sangguniang Bayan and approved by Mayor Odsey recognizes their rights to take their proper place in society and make it a concern of the family, community, and the government; gives full support to the improvement of the total well- being of the elderly and their full participation in society considering that senior citizens are an integral part of the Philippine society; motivates and encourages them to contribute to nation-building; and encourages their families and the communities they live with to reaffirm the valued Filipino tradition of caring for the senior citizens. By Alpine L. Killa