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Arroyo wants PVAO ‘fast track centers’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 10:47:00 02/23/2009

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) to set up “fast-track centers” in the provinces to process claims of World War II veterans to a lump sum payment from the United States government.

Arroyo said the centers would spare the veterans, many of whom are in their 80s, from the “physical torture and cost” of going to Manila.

“Today, I’m directing the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office to put up temporary processing centers in provinces with a large number of World War II veterans to speed up the processing of the benefits. The temporary centers shall be called PVAO fast track centers,” Arroyo said in a speech.

United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney, meanwhile, advised ailing veterans not to risk travel to the capital to file their claims.

“And the other important thing is [that] if you are not well, don’t risk your life coming to us. We’ll find you and come to you,” Kenney said in an interview with reporters in Malacañang.

Kenney also warned the veterans against fixers, saying it was “absolutely free” to file their claims before the PVAO or the US Embassy.

The embassy has so far received 2,000 claims, and these are being validated, she said.

Kenney presented to Arroyo and a group of veterans at the Palace on Monday a copy of the US economic stimulus bill, which includes the $198-million in lump sum payments for Filipino veterans — $15,000 each for those living in the US and $9,000 each for those living in the Philippines.

“It is a debt we can never repay. Maraming salamat po [Thank you very much],” Kenney told the veterans in her speech.

“When a true friend counts is under pressure and under test. The veterans here today stood up to that test. As a group, their friendship cemented the extraordinary relationship between the United States of America and the Philippines,” she said.

Arroyo thanked US President Barack Obama for signing the stimulus package, and American lawmakers for pushing the inclusion of the lump sum for the veterans.

“Ambassador Kenney, please convey to President Obama that we join the rest of the world in supporting his efforts to bring financial recovery to the US and to the whole world,” she said.

The President acknowledged veterans who died before Obama signed the measure, including her father, the late former president Diosdado Macapagal. Only living veterans can avail of the lump sum.

Arroyo said her father was in charge of pooling funds for guerrillas, earning him the moniker “Macapagal the incorruptible.”

She also noted her late uncle, former congressman Angel Macapagal, who escaped from the Death March when it passed by their hometown of Lubao, and their family chauffer, Osias Navarro, who was forced to migrate to the US to avail of benefits for war veterans.

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2009-02-23T08:41:06+00:00UTC02bUTCMon, 23 Feb 2009 08:41:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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