Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.
Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.

Just recently, the government started the distribution of social pension payouts for indigent senior citizens in a bid to cushion the impact of inflation on rising prices of basic goods.

From a monthly stipend of PHP500, poor senior citizens will now receive double the amount at PHP1,000 per month. The said program is set to benefit over 4 million senior citizens—a sizable portion of the population, who, I believe, can continue to become active and meaningful contributors to national development.

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), senior citizens covered by the social pension are those who are ineligible to receive stipends from public or private insurance firms such as the Social Security System, and Government Service Insurance System, among others.

As a senior citizen myself, I believe that there should be a more holistic approach in improving the benefits and social services available to Filipino elders. While some seniors may need more social support than others, it is crucial to review current benefits and privileges extended to all senior citizens to ensure their sufficiency and competitiveness in today’s dynamic market.

For instance, we can review discounts for basic goods, public transportation, and medicines to determine if there is a need to increase such benefits. And with the pandemic disrupting businesses, it’s essential to enforce express lanes for the elderly in commercial establishments, with strict enforcement of penalties for non-compliance.

To effectively manage resources and address the needs of senior citizens, regular consultations with the elderly coming from diverse educational and economic backgrounds can provide new perspectives on their needs, the roadblocks they face in availing government services, and the challenges they encounter as seniors in the Philippines.

As a new senior citizen and veteran communicator, I understand the importance of accurate information for the elderly. It’s crucial that senior citizens are informed about their benefits, as it can be a lifeline, especially for those who need greater social support.

To ensure that policies and benefits are aligned with the needs of senior citizens, a more proactive and robust information campaign is a must. After all, what good are these benefits and programs if the beneficiaries cannot or do not know how to avail of it themselves?

In this regard, both the public and private sector can work together to make our country more inclusive and age-friendly. Providing social support to seniors is not just the responsibility of the state, it also represents how we value their contributions to national progress and economic development.

It’s heartening to see that huge strides have already been made under the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to protect and advance the welfare of senior citizens this early on.

The President launched the five-year Philippine Plan of Action for Senior Citizens (PPASC 2023-2028) last year, which aims to create a more age-friendly society and explore ways on how the government can tap the potential of the Filipino elderly. This is a welcome development given that there are around 9 million senior citizens in the country based on the 2020 national census.

While elderly Filipinos may not be as physically fit as the Gen Z and millennial workforce, they possess a wealth of experience and knowledge that can help in advancing national progress if effectively tapped.

Let’s continue to work towards improving the available social services for the elderly and keep them involved and informed about their rights, benefits, and privileges.