Defense Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office administrator, yesterday said the government has increased the health benefits of the country’s World War II veterans and is pushing for the passage of more bills to ease their medical expenses.
Carolina was the guest of honor at the celebration of the 68th Negros Island Liberation Day at the Negros Occidental Multi-Purpose Activity Center in Bacolod attended by some of the remaining 180 WW II veterans in the province, of which 13, with ages ranging from 92 to 98, were honored.
There are about 18,000 remaining WW II veterans in the country, many of whom are over 86 years old, with numerous medical needs, Carolina said.
To address this, President Benigno Aquino has announced that, aside from the Veterans Hospital, accredited public hospitals around the country must provide hospitalized veterans P1,200 a day in medical services for 45 days.
The government is now also paying for PhilHealth coverage of veterans annually, and a bill is pending for the construction of a veterans’ hospital in the Visayas, in Iloilo or Cebu, and another in Mindanao in Davao or Cagayan de Oro, Carolina said.
Other bills also pending in Congress for veterans and to increase their P5,000 monthly allowance for medicine to P10,000, by releasing the increase of P1,000 every year for the next five years, and another increasing their burial expenses from P10,000 to P20,000, Carolina said.
Vice Gov. Eugenio Lacson, who represented Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. at the commemoration rites, said it is but fitting that they give tribute to the veterans who had fought hard to attain the freedom that the people of Negros are enjoying today.
In behalf of the governor and the people of Negros, Lacson thanked the veterans for their gallantry, selflessness, and heroism to attain the freedom for Negros and the country.
In commemoration of Liberation Day, Lacson said yesterday, the provincial government was providing P200,000 in medical assistance, gift packs and free medical consultations for the veterans.
“We will continue helping your organization in any way we can,” he told the veterans.
Veterans given medals yesterday were Salvacion Paterno, 92, Pio Rodrigo, 92, Serafin Gabunas, 94, and Jose Hechanova, 95.
Other awardees who were not able to attend the rites were Enrique Prietos, 92, Andres Bollon, 92, Luz Padilla, 93, Teodoro Quiro, 93, Feliciano Mahinay, 93, Agerico Reinoso, 94, Manuel Gendrala, 95, Nicanor Parcon, 96 and Ricardo Cordova, 98.
Veteran Loreto Tano, 96, also attended the rites.
Carolina said 68 years ago on Sept. 9, 1945, the Japanese soldiers surrendered to the Filipino-American forces in Hacienda Sta Rosa, Murcia in Negros Occidental.
There is a need to correct the prevailing general impression that the landing of the American soldiers started the liberation of the country from the hands of the Japanese forces, he said. The liberation campaign in Negros was initiated by the 7th Military District way before the landings of the American forces, he said.
Carolina cited the leadership of Col. Salvador Abcede and Col. Ernesto Mata in the Negros campaign.
With this year’s theme “Negrense WW II Veterans…Our Inspiration for Volunteerism“, Carolina said it is hoped that a collaborative sense of nationalism, especially among the youth, be roused so that each and everyone will be conscious of doing their share to walk the extra mile for their country.*CPG