This Good Practice Initiative was delivered by Ms. Leeshell Lopez, Social Welfare Officer III/Focal Person for Senior Citizen Programs of the Provincial Social Welfare Development Office (PSWDO) of Apayao province during the Knowledge Management Expo 2023 held at the Lafaayette Suites, Baguio City from 27-30 November 2023. The Initiative initially involved expansion of the PSWDO’s workforce through the recruitment of unemployed college graduates to serve as ‘Barangay Social Welfare Support Workers’ (BSWSW). As provided for by Provincial Resolution No. 80-A series of 2020, those who qualified were trained in profiling clients, distributing assistance packages, monitoring implementation of other social welfare programs by the municipal local government units; and data-gathering for the Social Protection and Development Reports. This was to be able to augment the Provincial and Municipal Social Welfare Offices in order to reach clients even in the most remote sitios and barangays of the province. They are incentivized with regular employment by the provincial government if rated exemplary at the end of their year-long contracts.
Under Provincial Resolution No. 64 series of 2019, the first type of targeted clients are senior citizens who are on the waitlist forwarded to DSWD Field Office-CAR for funding but not catered to due to insufficient funds and validated not be receiving any form of pension. These are provided with a monthly stipend of 500 pesos that is paid out on a quarterly basis. Any client monitored to be requiring emergency medical care are promptly referred to the municipal health centers or the provincial hospital. Under Provincial Resolution No. 142 series of 2022, the second type of clients are senior citizens with no other family members or are bed-ridden due to illness. These clients basically received food packs and referred to medical facilities for any needed medication. The third type of clients are based on provisions of Republic Act No. 10868 or the “Centenarians Act of 2016”, and are described as nonagenarians or those who are ages 95-99. They are given 20,000.00-peso cash gifts.
Apayao’s rationale of targeting senior citizens not covered by the National Social Pension Program is founded on the indigenous “Isnag” value of filial piety, especially for those afflicted with health or medical issues. Result of implementing this initiative shows that a total of 557 of the first type of clients were served in Calendar Year 2021. This number dwindled to 372 on the following year mostly due to deaths. For the second type of clients, the number of bed-ridden senior citizens served increased to 550 by Calendar Year 2023. For the third type of clients, only 36 nonagenarians availed of their cash gifts by Calendar Year 2023 out of 55 profiled at the start of the year.
Testimonies of the clients served collectively praise the local government for taking the effort of bringing them assistance despite the distance or remoteness from the municipal centers. Those senior citizens living alone or bed-ridden expressed gratitude for not being neglected and simply left to die. Nonagenarians have also been encouraged by their cash gifts to take care of their health and reach the age of 100 in order to receive the national government’s 100,000.00-peso incentive. These testimonies have encouraged Apayao’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan to transform the Provincial Resolutions behind this Initiative into Provincial Ordinances in the coming year for purposes of sustainability.
Republic Act No. 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, as well as the Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens (SPISC) mandate additional government assistance in the amount of Five Hundred Pesos (P500.00) monthly stipend. However, not all are able to avail of this provision, so that alleviating their plight remains with local government units who take initiatives. Apayao is listed as the 3rd among the poorest provinces of the Philippines with 54.7% poverty incidence, but this has not constrained its Local Government Units from undertaking protective service initiatives for its elderly population.