A total of 511,000 retirees and pensioners of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) are scheduled to receive their cash benefit starting on Tuesday, May 5, three days earlier than the usual release date, the state-run pension fund’s president and general manager Rolando Macasaet said at a Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday.

Macasaet noted that over 40,000 GSIS members have availed themselves of online loans, with P4 billion released so far. More borrowers were expected since the loans will be offered until July, he added.

The GSIS board has also doubled the available emergency loan assistance to P40,000 in light of recent catastrophes, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Taal Volcano eruption in January, the GSIS official said.

Macasaet said the pension fund was working on offering the GSIS financial assistance loan (GFAL) online, though loan application is currently not available as it would require potential borrowers to attend financial literacy and loan counseling seminars that are not possible under the social distancing guidelines of the Luzon-wide lockdown.

The GFAL may be relaunched online by mid-May, Macasaet said, adding that the loan has lowered its interest rate to 6 percent per annum with a longer repayment period of six years for private lender loans transferred by government employees to the GSIS.

About 230,000 GSIS members have availed themselves of the GFAL, with P93.5 billion disbursed in loans so far since it was offered beginning May last year.

In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque apologized for the delay in the distribution of cash aid to low-income families under the social amelioration program (SAP), and said local officials who were slow to respond to their constituents’ needs would be penalized.

“We ask for your pardon. We will enforce the law and enforce discipline among those who should have acted faster,” Roque said in a TV interview.He said President Duterte was glad over Interior Secretary Eduardo Año’s directive giving local government units three days to distribute the SAP cash aid to all intended beneficiaries.

“I think that reflects the President’s general predicament. Money is there to be given to those in need. It should have been given yesterday and not today,” he said. —With A report from Leila B. Salaverria

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