Aquino promises benefits to war veteransBy TJ Burgonio |Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Acknowledging that the annual wreath-laying wasn’t enough, President Benigno Aquino III promised on Tuesday to deliver benefits to thousands of World War II veterans.
Leading the observance of Araw ng Kagitingan on Mt. Samat in Bataan, the President said the government was working on the full payment of total administrative disability pension, including a monthly P1,700 for veterans who have reached 70.
When a veteran reaches 70, he is deemed totally disabled, entitling him to such a pension, according to law.
The President said the government was also aggressively implementing the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Law in which $224 million has been given away to more than 18,700 applicants.
On top of this, 599 public hospitals accredited by the Veterans Memorial Medical Center continued to serve the veterans, with the subsidy for each patient increased to P1,200 per day from P800 since January, he said.
All these were undertaken in recognition of the “selfless sacrifice’’ of the veterans, Aquino said.
“We’re aware that no grand ceremonies or wreath-laying could surpass the true value of our veterans’ heroic deeds. That’s why, as we look back on the heroism of Filipinos who took and continue to take care of our country, we also take care of their welfare and their families.’ Those who put the motherland above self should not be left alone by the State,’’ he said in a speech aired over government-run radio.
If any moral could be drawn from history, the President said, it was that no matter how vast the world is, where countries are separated by oceans, “all of us are on the same boat.’’
“Whatever threat there is to peace in any country, it can threaten stability the whole world. In other words, our collective future depends on our cooperation, unity and rowing in one direction,’’ he said.
Aquino paid tribute anew to the heroism of the Filipino soldiers.
“They’re the thousands who bravely used their bodies as shields against bullets for love of country. They’re those who tangled not only with the enemy but with hunger and illnesses. They’re our heroic soldiers who clung to hope amid the danger and uncertainty,’’ he said.
Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe expressed “heartfelt apologies and deep remorse’’ for the “inexplicable suffering” suffered by Filipinos during the war.
Urabe and American Ambassador Harry Thomas also vowed to deepen their countries’ collaboration with the Philippines to create a “free and democratic environment’’ in the Asia Pacific.
As the country marked the heroism of Filipino soldiers during the Second World War, Urabe and Thomas reiterated their countries’ close alliance with the Philippines, and their commitment to “peace and prosperity’’ in the region.
Urabe said Japan has learned its lessons from the war, and considered the United States a “trusted friend.’’
“The United States [is] our closest ally. Japan, Philippines and the US are strengthening our alliance and deepening our collaboration in order to create a free and democratic environment in the region,’’ he said.
Urabe said it was the responsibility of the present generation and the succeeding ones to continue pursuing this path “by sharing fundamental values such as democracy, freedom, respect for human rights and rule of law.’’
“We work together to find common ground. Peace and prosperity for all is what we seek,’’ he said.
Echoing Urabe, Thomas said: “The Philippines, US and Japan are now extreme close allies.’’ He said Americans were thankful that peace reigns in the three countries “as we move forward on the road to peace and prosperity.’’
Speaking of the ties between the US and the Philippines, the American ambassador said that the friendship was “stronger, all forged through blood, sweat and partnership.’’
“As shown in history and in ongoing Balikatan exercises, we can and will work together shoulder to shoulder to better each other’s forces and nations. Together we are better prepared to react and handle disaster relief that may happen at any time in the Philippines,’’ he said.
Both Urabe and Thomas, however, made no reference to North Korea’s threats to launch missiles on the US and its military that have sent jitters across the region.
Pentagon officials had said they could calculate a missile’s trajectory and try to shoot it down if it appeared headed toward South Korea, Japan or Guam.
Aquino said the Philippines was heartened by the fact that countries that were once at war with each other were now allies in preserving peace, stability and prosperity.
“Together with America and Japan, we’ve proven that the most effective shield against misunderstanding is strong cooperation, engagement and enforcement of international laws,’’ he said.