March 03, 2021 at 10:30 pm
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday urged retired military and uniformed personnel who have raised concerns about their 2018 pension differentials to be patient as the government needs to prioritize funding for the COVID-19 response.
Lorenzana made the appeal at the sidelines of his courtesy call to Speaker Lord Allan Velasco at the House of Representatives.
“I would like to remind our pensioners who are demanding to receive their arrears in 2018 to be more patient and to give us more time because COVID has depleted our funds and we have to spend more for our COVID response. We still have to buy vaccines so we might not be able to sustain (paying the arrears),” he said.
Lorenzana made the appeal amid the issue on the P20 billion slashed from the Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF) for retired uniformed personnel under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.
The Department of Budget and Management had originally proposed P172.9 billion for the PGF to partially fund the payment of the 2018 pension differences for military and uniformed personnel.
However, in the final version of the GAA, the amount was reduced to P152.9 billion or a difference of P20 billion, thus affecting the payment of the 2018 pension differentials.
House Committee on Appropriations chairman Eric Yap said the P20-billion was in fact a buffer fund, which the DBM, the House and the Senate all agreed to realign in favor of budget items meant to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including the procurement of vaccines and personal protective equipment of medical frontliners.
Lorenzana believed “there’s no harm done” with the delay in the payment of the 2018 pension differentials.
“The government is not backing away from its obligation. Consider it your contribution to help the government in the fight against COVID by not insisting yet on the arrears payment,” Lorenzana added.