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Rights and Priviliges of Senior Citizens in the Philippines

When you get old (60 years old and above) here in the Philippines, you will enjoy dual citizenship. You are a Filipino citizen and a Senior Citizen (a popular joke).

You will also have certain privileges other citizens don't have. Section 4 of Republic Act No. 9257 (Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003), provided that senior citizens shall be entitled to the following:
  • the grant of twenty percent (20%) discount from all establishments relative to the utilization of services in hotels and similar lodging establishment, restaurants and recreation centers, and purchase of medicines in all establishments for the exclusive use or enjoyment of senior citizens, including funeral and burial services for the death of senior citizens;
  • a minimum of twenty percent (20%) discount on admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses and concert halls, circuses, carnivals, and other similar places of culture, leisure and amusement for the exclusive use or enjoyment of senior citizens;
  • exemption from the payment of individual income taxes: Provided, That their annual taxable income does not exceed the poverty level as determined by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for that year;
  • exemption from training fees for socioeconomic programs;
  • free medical and dental service, diagnostic and laboratory fees such as, but not limited to, x-rays, computerized tomography scans and blood tests, in all government facilities, subject to the guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health in coordination with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHILHEALTH);
  • the grant of twenty percent (20%) discount on medical and dental services, and diagnostic and laboratory fees provided under Section 4 (e) hereof, including professional fees of attending doctors in all private hospitals and medical facilities, in accordance with the rules and regulations to be issued by the Department of Health, in coordination with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation;
  • the grant of twenty percent (20%) discount in fare for domestic air and sea travel for the exclusive use or enjoyment of senior citizens;
  • the grant of twenty percent (20%) discount in public railways, skyways and bus fare for the exclusive use and enjoyment of senior citizens;
  • educational assistance to senior citizens to pursue post secondary, tertiary, post tertiary, as well as vocational or technical education in both public and private schools through provision of scholarship, grants, financial aid subsidies and other incentives to qualified senior citizens, including support for books, learning materials, and uniform allowance, to the extent feasible: Provided, That senior citizens shall meet minimum admission requirement;
  • to the extent practicable and feasible, the continuance of the same benefits and privileges given by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS) and PAG-IBIG, as the case may be, as are enjoyed by those in actual service.
  • retirement benefits of retirees from both the government and private sector shall be regularly reviewed to ensure their continuing responsiveness and sustainability, and to the extent practicable and feasible, shall be upgraded to be at par with the current scale enjoyed by those in actual service.
  • to the extent possible, the government may grant special discounts in special programs for senior citizens on purchase of basic commodities, subject to the guidelines to be issued for the purpose by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA); and
  • provision of express lanes for senior citizens in all commercial and government establishments; in the absence thereof, priority shall be given to them.
I can't wait to get old and enjoy these privileges. A couple of weeks ago I had a short job contract as an interviewer of a study on Aging here in the Philippines. I was assigned in the southern part of the country. I found out that most of the older persons I interviewed don't have a Senior Citizens ID, meaning not a registered at the Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) for the most common reason of not having enough money to pay for the registration. Annual registration would cost as much as P350. The amount is too expensive for most senior citizens in the provinces.

The senior citizens who were registered also didn't enjoy the discounts and privileges stated above because of the following reasons:
  1. They can’t afford to buy medicines (you can avail of discounts only if you buy)
  2. Very few drugstores honored the senior citizens ID and these drugstores were located in another town. Going to these drugstores would cost more than the discount they would get.
  3. They don’t avail of hotel services and they don’t eat in restaurants. “Carenderias”, popular eating places in the Philippines don’t give senior citizens discounts.
  4. No cinemas and theaters in the area.
  5. They were not provided with socioeconomic training programs (these are supposed to be free for them).
The most common and most used privilege was the twenty percent (20%) discount in fare for domestic travel. If I were a senior citizen in the area, I would be spending more in the senior citizen registration than the discount I would get in one year period.

On the other hand, I noticed in metro cities in the Philippines Senior Citizens (or their families) abusing their privileges. When families dine out (usually in fastfoods), the older persons ordered and paid the food for the whole family.

Other senior citizen facts (Census Data):
  • There were 4.6 million senior citizens in 2000 and is expected to reach seven million in 2010.
  • Southern Tagalog had the largest number of senior citizens.
  • Sex ratio was recorded at 85 males for every 100 females.
  • Median age at 68 years, meaning half of the senior citizens were below 68 years old.
  • Three in five elders were married.
  • Five percent were academic degree holders
  • Six in every hundred Roman Catholics were senior citizens
  • Majority (95.91 percent) were in the same city/municipality five years ago
  • More than half of senior citizens were household heads
  • Three in every five senior citizens who were living alone were females
  • Five percent of the elders were foreigners
  • Low vision was the most common type of disability
  • Majority were literate
  • More than half of senior citizens were gainful workers
  • Two in five senior citizens were farmers, forestry workers or fishermen
  • Most gainful senior citizens worked without pay in own family operated farm/business
  • One-third of gainful senior citizens worked in the same city/municipality
  • One in five households had at least one senior citizen.

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