Stay alive, WW2 Filipino veterans told
By Rachelle Nessia
Dumaguete City (13 April) -- “Just stay alive,” was the advice given by a local war veteran leader in Negros Oriental to his fellow Filipino veterans who fought alongside American soldiers in fending off Japanese invasion during the World War II.
Former Judge Venancio Aldecoa, who saw action in World War II as a 17-year old soldier, gave the advice in view of the long and drawn-out ordeal of Filipino war veterans for the passage of the Veterans’ Equity Bill in United States.
The bill seeks to amend the Rescission Act, now Section 107 of the United States Code, which stopped the pension of all Filipino World War II nonservice-connected veterans in 1946 and limited the disability compensation, health and burial benefits to those with service-connected or combat-related injury.
Should the Veterans’ Equity Bill be passed into law, monthly pension to all Filipino WWII veterans for their war services will be restored.
Aldecoa lamented that the passage of the bill is already long-delayed. “Time is very precious to us veterans,” he said.
At 81 years old, Aldecoa - who heads the second district federation of war veterans in the province- said he is one of the youngest of the group that has diminished over the years.
Current records from the local Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) here show there are a total of 2,041 veterans and surviving spouses in Negros Oriental (1,789) and Siquijor (252) provinces.
Figures released by Philippine Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Carlos D. Sorreta place the total number of surviving non-service veterans at 20,000 with 13,000 in the Philippines and around 7,000 in the US.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has earlier expressed hope that US lawmakers would support the possible passage of the bill that would grant Filipino war veterans equal benefits with their American counterparts.
“We hope that all the US officials will support this effort to pass legislation that would allow our Filipino veterans to obtain the benefits they have long sought and truly deserve,” the President said.
Aldecoa said the additional pension that veterans would get from the passage of the said bill is much needed by the veterans who most, if not all, are in want.
He said WWII veterans in the Philippines are receiving a monthly pension of P5,000. But with the high cost of prices and medicines today, this is not enough to cover our needs, stressed Aldecoa.
But in the meantime that the Filipino Equity Bill is going through the eye of the needle in the US, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the release of P1.8 billion to cover government arrears in the pension payments of Filipino war veterans.
The President issued the directive in her speech read by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita during the 65th Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) rites on Mt. Samat Shrine in Bataan.
Since 2006, the government has already released a total of P19.57 billion for the regular pension and P1.6 billion in pension arrears of the war veterans for the remaining months of this year.
The government expects to settle all pension arrears by next year. (PIA/RMN) [top]