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500 war veterans die each month

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Joel Guinto

MANILA, Philippines—Filipino war veterans die at the rate of 500 a month and they are now down to roughly 16,000, as Filipino and United States authorities move to prepare to process their claims, an official of the Department of National Defense said Monday.

The US Veteran Affairs Office has sent an advance team to Manila to prepare to accept the World War II veterans’ claims, and would soon co-locate with the 17 offices of the Philippine Veteran Affairs Office (PVAO), said Ernesto Carolina, defense undersecretary for veteran and reservist affairs.

A total of $198 million in lump sum benefits for Filipino veterans is included in a stimulus package passed by the US Congress Friday for the ailing US economy, which US President Barack Obama hailed it as “a major milestone on our road to recovery” and promised to sign it into law shortly.

Philippine-based veterans need to personally file their claims before PVAO offices, and if bedridden, PVAO and US officials will come to them, Carolina told a news conference in Malacañang.

“Pupuntahan namin sila [We will come to them]. We will lead them there baka maligaw sila e [they might get lost]. They are around 18,000 but their numbers have gone down [because they are] dying at rate of 500 a month. That’s sad. So now they’re around 16,000,” he said.

Carolina said the 18,000 estimate was made in 2008. The number was based on the count of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) and the revised reconstructed guerrilla roster in Missouri.

He said the Philippine government estimated as much as 36,000, but not all of them were recognized by the US, including some who were merely “certified” by comrades such as Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon [People’s Army Against the Japanese, Hukbalahab] leader Luis Taruc, Carolina said.

Carolina also took exception to statements that the lump sum that will be awarded to the veterans — $9,000 for those in the Philippines and $15,000 for those who live in the US and have acquired citizenship there — was a pittance.

“That [amount] is secondary to them, more important than the money is the redemption of their dignity, the recognition,” he said.

The measure seeks to correct a 63-year injustice suffered by Filipino war veterans who were stripped of benefits such as health care, disability pensions, and burial expenses by the 1946 Rescission Act of the United States.

About 250,000 Filipino soldiers fought alongside US troops during World War II.

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2009-02-16T15:02:57+00:00UTC02bUTCMon, 16 Feb 2009 15:02:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm02

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