By Ben Cal
MANILA, Oct. 9 (PNA) -– Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin urged Congress on Friday to pass pending bills, including the proposed increase of the monthly pensions of the country’s 168,609 living war veterans who are in the twilight years of their lives.
Gazmin issued the call during the 43rd anniversary celebration of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon city.
“There are also bills pending in the legislature pertaining to our veterans. Let us combine our voices to make it louder so that our lawmakers will hear our calling to pass House Bill 2367 and Senate Bill 638 which seek to increase monthly pension of veterans, and House Bill 2511 which seeks to provide funeral assistance, death benefit, living assistance, and undergraduate educational assistance to the surviving spouses and minor children of soldiers killed in action,” Gazmin said.
At the same time, he urged President Benigno Aquino III to support the passage of the bill to establish a Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMV) in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao and also to address the lack of hospitals that could extend healthcare services to over half a million qualified veteran beneficiaries, most of whom are based in the provinces.
Gazmin recalled that a year ago, he led the ceremonialgroundbreaking and signing of the deed of donation of five hectares of land inside the Philippine Veterans Investment and Development Corporation (PHIVIDEC) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental for the construction of VMMC in Mindanao.
He lauded Defense Undersecretary Ernesto G. Carolina, PVAO administrator, for effectively implementing various benefits for the veterans who made sacrifices in defending the country’s freedom and democracy during their active years in the military service.
Gazmin said Carolina was instrumental in the implementation of the Total Administrative Disability (TAD) pension arrearages to all living World War II.
“World War II veterans are now receiving a monthly TADpension of P1,700,” he said.
“Another PVAO effort on the administration of benefits is the improvement of its pension management system and ensuring the integrity of its pensioners list through its validation program by entering into formal agreements with partner banks, financial institutions, and government entities,” he added.
Gazmin said he signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Health (DOH) last year upgrading the hospitalization benefits of veterans.
Under the Veterans Hospitalization Program (VHP), a veteran that is hospitalized will receive a subsidy of P1,200 per day.
VHP will also allow partial reimbursement of certain select procedures and additional benefits, benefitting mostly veterans and dependents in the provinces who cannot go to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City, Metro Manila for treatment.
“With regard to educational benefits, the education program that PVAO is implementing is truly laudable as it provides college scholarship subsidy of P36,000 per annum to any direct descendant of veterans who fought either in World War II, Korean War or Vietnam War. From 2010 to the first semester of 2015, an average of 2,312 scholars per year benefitted from the program,” Gazmin said.
Another achievement in terms of administration of benefits is the increase in burial assistance for veterans from P10,000 to P20,000, effective Dec. 12, 2014.
Gazmin likewise praised PVAO for constructing various national historical shrines that immortalize the patriotic and heroism of war veterans.
“Through these, all Filipinos, especially the young generations, are informed of the struggles of our veterans so that all of us could live in peace today,” he said.
“Our shrines and historical commemorations remind us that our freedom does not come cheap — that some people had to fight for it and those were our veterans who are our genuine heroes who stood up to fight the formidable enemy when others got scared; who have endured witnessing the death of their comrades-in-arms and even innocent civilians; and who have witnessed various untold horrors of war,” he said.
“Our veterans had sacrificed more than we will ever possibly know. Putting up and maintaining shrines for them and celebrating their valor are miniscule compared to what they have done for our nation,” he added.
Gazmin said that “another way of immortalizing the valor of our veterans is by telling and re-telling the stories of their courage and love for country through books and publications” which, he noted, PVAO under the stewardship of General Carolina, has done.
On the other hand, Carolina said PVAO will continue to reach out to help the country’s veterans. (PNA)