Days before the annual commemoration of “Araw ng Kagitingan,” Malacanang assured support for Filipino war veterans and their families.
In a radio interview, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Aquino government is committed to fully deliver the benefits of the thousands of World War II veterans.
Coloma said the government, through the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), was working hard to deliver in full the benefits to war veterans and their families such as old age disability, total administrative disability, death pension benefits, education, hospitalization, and burial assistance benefits.
He cited the payment of P2.8 billion worth of administrative disability arrears from 1994 to 2002 to 17,817 living war veterans was “one of the milestone achievements” of PVAO last year.
“This has brought the total payment for total administrative disability arrears to P6.93 billion as of this date, which demonstrates the government’s resolve to deliver its commitment as mandated in Republic Act 7696,” he said.
For 2013, Coloma said that the PVAO delivered P10.2 billion in pension benefits to 199,000 beneficiaries.
He noted that the government hospital has spent more than P2 million for the hospitalization of 1,092 veterans as dependents last year.
Specialized care for illnesses and other medical needs given to veterans reached around P15 million, he added
On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino 3rd will lead the commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan rites in Pilar, Bataan.
Coloma said the highlight of the event will be President Aquino’s speech paying respect to the Filipino soldiers who were killed in the war.
Simultaneous celebrations will be held at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and other venues on Wednesday.
“With this year’s theme ‘Balik Tanaw sa Sakripisyo ng Beterano: Gabay sa Landas ng Pagbabago’, the PVAO and Department of National Defense aim to present our veterans as among the country’s national treasures and to revive the culture of heroism, which the Filipino race has been known for essentially because of our veterans’ valor and selfless sacrifices,” Coloma added.
The Death March began on April 9, 1942, when 72,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced to march the 55 milies from Mariveles to San Fernando, transferred to a train and marched again for eight miles to Camp O’Donnell.
As many as 10,000 prisoners of war were believed to have died before they could reach Camp O’Donnell.
CATHERINE S. VALENTE