Aquino assures war veterans of health subsidies
MANILA PRESIDENT Aquino has assured subsidised health services for Filipino war veterans and continuing modernisation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday’s Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valour) rites that paid tribute to Filipino and American soldiers who fought the Japanese 70 years ago.
The President addressed the aging soldiers and their relatives who gathered at the Dambana ng Kagitingan here entirely in Filipino, earning their applause when he announced that since March 31, 599 hospitals have been accredited by the Veterans Memorial Medical Centre (VMMC) as regional and provincial extension, making it easy for them to avail of medical benefits.
The VMMC, Aquino said, has also been subsidising services for cataract surgery, coronary angiogram procedure and cardiac bypass operations.
The President drew applause when he cited the direct remittance servicing system of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, which is done by way of banks or automated teller machines. This, he said, has enabled war veterans to receive pension faster and in correct amounts.
The list of veterans, he said, had been purged, enabling government to generate savings that are used to support more pensioners.
“The state honours our veterans and I believe we should repay their sacrifices by caring for them,” the President said.
Ernesto Carolina, PVAO administrator, said the House committee on veterans affairs has approved an increase in old age pension from P5,000 to P10,000 through an increase of P1,000 a year for five years.
Also pending in Congress is a bill augmenting the burial assistance from P10,000 to P20,000.
Carolina said PVAO had paid P4 billion to eligible pensioners from out of the savings incurred from the purging of illegal claimants.
He said the hospitalisation benefit in PVAO-accredited hospitals has been doubled to P800 for a maximum 45 days maximum. PVAO also pays for the premium of veterans’ membership in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
Pensions for old age, disability and death are paid to nearly 250,000 veterans, their spouses and descendants, he said.
Leslie Bassett, deputy chief of mission for the United States Embassy, said that in the last two years, more than 18,000 Filipino veterans had received over $220 million from the US government’s Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Program.
But Colonel Roberto Gacayan, 85, a war veteran from La Union, urged Aquino and the country’s legislators not to ignore the plight of war veterans.
“It seems that the government has been slowly forgetting what we did during the war. We hope that our benefits would be increased. We will not live long and we hope that in the remaining years of our lives, we get to feel our true worth,” said Gacayan, head of the Confederation of World War II Veterans’ Sons and Daughters Inc.
“If not for our sacrifice, the youth will not experience the freedom they are enjoying today,” he said.
Aquino told the war veterans that his administration was fully working to upgrade the capacity of the AFP.
“What we want, in case the situation turns into a conflict, we can manage to fight,” he said.
At least 138 projects under the defence acquisition system are due to be done within five years, he said.
Aquino said these are being done because of the good governance of his administration, adding that “integrity and honour result in programs that benefit our people.” “I know that the morale of government troops is high not only because of housing or combat allowance but also because they know that we have removed the culture of corruption in the AFP leadership,” he said.
Aside from war veterans and their families, former President Fidel Ramos, top military and police officials, Cabinet members, local officials and diplomats attended the Araw ng Kagitingan ceremonies at Mount Samat here.