Message at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Social Security System

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Social Security System, Quezon City, Philippines, 14 May 2014

Statement | Quezon City, Philippines | 14 May 2014
  • Ms See, Senior Vice-President of the Social Security System
  • Partners and officials of the Social Security System
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!
First of all, let me thank you for having me back here at SSS.

I have been in the Philippines for almost four years. In those four years, I have made an effort to work closely with SSS.

From the ILO’s perspective and goal of decent work for all – we talk about four pillars and social protection through social security is a key pillar that we highlight, as it often gets overlooked in disasters and the recovery phase.

The Philippines has been hit by several disasters – Washi, Bopha, the conflict in Zamboanga, the earthquake in Bohol and recently with Super Typhoon Haiyan.

In each of those cases, we have advocated for inclusive growth strategies that deal with ensuring livelihoods at the forefront of recovery, but it’s not just in terms of natural disasters, but also in terms of development.

We’ve worked with SSS on the Kasambahay (Domestic Workers) Law to ensure social protection for domestic workers. We’ve also just discussed the issue of the seafarers through the Maritime Labour Convention, which was also concurred by the Senate and ratified last year, to make sure that workers have access to social security in their home countries.

On the issue of informal sector - which I refused to call informal, because they are not - so we call them vulnerable workers as defined by the Millennium Development Goals, the impact is indeed quite dramatic. If you look at the Visayas and the scope of damages after Haiyan (Yolanda), almost six million workers lost their livelihoods. Of that, 2.6 million (larger than Chicago, my home town) were vulnerably employed even before the disaster.

You can just imagine the enormous work in the recovery process just to reach out to those workers who do not have access to PhilHealth, SSS, and decent work in general, and help transform to decent and safe working conditions.

We know that by guaranteeing conditions like social security and PhilHealth, there is actually a better chance of increasing productivity and lifting people out of poverty.

Today’s signing ceremony, is really nothing new in terms of collaboration between the ILO and SSS. We are just formalizing what we have done in previous disasters.

More importantly, as the co-chair of the Early Recovery and Livelihood Cluster, we’re also reaching out to other partners within the UN – including UNDP and our NGO colleagues such as Save the Children, OxFam and other organizations to ensure that they will adopt the same approach.

While we can’t reach all 2.6 million vulnerably employed workers at the same time, we can in collaboration make an impact on their lives, using a multiplier effect as part of the recovery process.

We will be advocating for social security inclusion in terms of social protection. I look forward to the next collaboration with SSS. At the same time, I encourage you to look at decent work and ensure that conditions are met, including social protection coverage.

I know that everybody here at SSS works very hard. I have seen what you have done and I have seen in the last four years the changes in terms of ensuring decent work.

Your work is really appreciated and it’s also being recognized, not just here in the Philippines but also globally. Later this month, the Philippines will be hosting the World Economic Forum on East-Asia. In that, will be an opportunity to highlight social protection and what SSS has done to support decent work not just in disaster response and prevention, but also to address the needs of the most vulnerable such as domestic workers. The work that you do is valued. I applaud you and look forward to our continued collaboration with SSS.

Thank you and Mabuhay!