(STAR) By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio - The Social Security System (SSS) exceeded this yearís collection target of P52 billion by P790 million as the state-run pension fund intensified its collection campaign.

"We are making sure that our collection exceeds benefits so that we will not dip in our reserve fund," SSS president Corazon S. dela Paz said in a separate interview.

In an attempt to further drive up collections, Dela Paz said they will partner with Shoemart bayad center to encourage voluntary members to pay their premiums together with their other bills.

Dela Paz explained that they are looking for other ways to collect premiums because some people find lining up in banks inefficient and time consuming.

In line with this, for the first time in five years retirees will receive a 10-percent increase in their benefits as the state run pension fund last month approved the retroactive increase, a top official said.

Dela Paz said the retirees will have a happy Christmas as they are set to receive five months worth of pension with the 10-percent increase during the holiday season.

"Because it (increase) was effected Sept.1, they (pensioners) will receive retroactive adjustment for September, October, November plus December plus the 13th month pay. Thatís five months with 10-percent increase," Dela Paz said.

In addition to augmenting the benefits for its members, SSS has likewise extended the life of the fund by 16 years from 2015 to 2031. However, the impact of the 10-percent additional benefit and the one percentage point increase in contributions are not factored in the computations.

SSS has increased its premium by one percentage point but ordinary members will not feel any strain in the upward adjustment as President Arroyo ordered employers to absorb the additional cost.

Dela Paz explained that employers will shoulder the increase which will start Jan. 1, 2007. "Since employers are not really raising the salaries of their workers, shouldering the additional contribution is not so bad," she noted.

Yap assures adequate supply of basic foodstuff in holidays By Marianne V. Go The Philippine Star 12/18/2006

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap gave his assurance yesterday that there will be an adequate supply of basic foodstuff at stable prices in Metro Manila this Christmas despite the spate of super typhoons that damaged farmlands, fisheries and livestock in several provinces.

Citing the latest survey by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), Yap said prices and supply of rice, fish, meat, chicken and vegetables have remained stable in wet markets in Metro Manila.

Yap assured that the Department of Agriculture has put in place several measures to ensure enough stocks of rice, chicken, meat, vegetables and other basic foodstuff at affordable prices between now and the yearend.

The BAS survey done after typhoons "Reming" and "Seniang" showed that prices of vegetables remained generally stable in various wet markets because the areas hit by the typhoons were not major producers of vegetables.

Yap confirmed the BAS findings following an inspection Wednesday, Dec. 12, of basic goods sold at the Commonwealth Public Market in Quezon City.

According to the BAS survey , vegetable prices have remained stable with native pechay and carrots even reflecting price cuts after typhoon "Reming."

Native pechay, which was priced at P35 per kilo, is now at P20 per kilo, while carrots, which hit P50 a kilo, now costs only P40 a kilo.

Even fish prices, which are expected to rise, remained at levels before the typhoon.

Galunggong and alumahan remained at an average of P100 per kilo.

Tilapia prices increased slightly after the typhoon but later returned to its previous level of P70 per kilo, the BAS added.

Prices of meat and chicken also spiked slightly after the typhoon, but have now returned to previous levels.

The price of regular-milled rice remained stable at P22 per kilo before and after the typhoon.

Prices of whole dressed chicken remained stable at between P110 and P120 per kilo, while pork liempo remained at P140 per kilo.

As for chicken, Yap recalled that the DA had already allowed an initial importation of three million kilos until the yearend to ensure enough supply at affordable prices during the holidays.

The initial import volume of whole chicken and leg quarters was agreed upon in an earlier consultative meeting between DA officials and stakeholders in the poultry industry following typhoon Milenyo which damaged an equivalent of 3,696 metric tons (MT) or about three million kilos of chicken meat.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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