July 21, 2017, 4:57 am
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Duterte orders release of veterans’ pension

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday ordered the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of National Defense to expedite the release of P6.421 billion in unpaid pensions of veterans.

The President, during the commemoration of the 75th Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) held at Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan, said the pension arrears of the veterans, or the beneficiaries of those who have died, cover the years 2008 to 2013.

There are about 200,000 veterans or their beneficiaries who are receiving pensions.

Duterte said the government has settled the backlog in disability benefits in the past years and has cleaned up the list of the veteran pensioners, and made the release of pensions more efficient.

“No matter what we do, we can never do enough to repay you. But I would like for you to know that your government is doing much, much more. Our surviving veterans have suffered much. They should not suffer more. In the twilight of their years, they deserve a better life. I assure our veterans (and) their families that we are prioritizing your entitlements,” he said.

The President said apart from pension, government continues to provide veterans and their dependents free health care at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and 152 accredited hospitals.

The education of 2,500 veterans’ dependents, he also said, is subsidized by government under the “Iskolar ng Bayan” program.

“These entitlements do not compare to the sacrifices that you have made. But we want you to know, our nation (and) our people are grateful to you for what you have done and we will do better,” Duterte added.

He also urged the youth to recognize the sacrifices of war veterans and  treat them with much respect and a deep sense of gratitude.

The President, who was born in March 1945 or towards the tail end of World War II, said he may have not personally witnessed the war but he, like all Filipinos today, owes his life and the present to the veterans who sacrificed life and limb for all, including those they do not know.

“Let Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) remind us all that Filipinos are capable of tremendous feats of heroism. Let this monument be a beacon for all to be brave in the midst of challenges and uncertainties. Let today be an occasion to reaffirm our vow: we will never waver in our efforts to secure what is best for the greatest common good of our nation,” he added.

Prior to the speech, Duterte, Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa, and United States chargé d’affaires Michael Klecheski offered wreaths at the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) in honor of the fallen soldiers of the World War II.

Ishikawa, in his speech, reiterated his country’s “heartfelt apologies” and “deep sense of remorse” for all sufferings that resulted from the war.

He said that 75 years since the war, the Philippines and Japan, together with the US, have formed a friendship and a strategic alliance that had grown and deepened over the years. He said he wished these ties would continue to grow, become stronger and deepen further.

Klecheski said while 75 years has passed, it is still important to continue to remember the past so one could   learn from it, and to reflect on the sacrifices of those who died during the war.

“In the decades since that war, we have together -- the Philippines, the United States, Japan and so many other countries -- forged a rules-based order in Asia that has created a stability that we cherish and that we must continue together to defend. Today the challenge of international terrorism has emerged and our countries also are united in fighting this scourge. We must also remember the importance of standing together as the Philippines and the US has done for these many, many decades,” he added.
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