By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to promoting the welfare and well-being of all Filipino veterans.
This, as the country marks the start of the commemoration of the Philippine Veterans Week (PVW) which runs until April 12.
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) led the celebration with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
In a statement, DND chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said he is profoundly grateful to the veteran leaders and support institutions, partner organizations, as well as the youth sector for their participation in honoring the memory of the Filipino patriots.
“Napakahalaga ng sama-sama nating pagbabalik-tanaw sa mga naiambag ng ating mga beterano sa ating natatanging kasaysayan, kasalukuyan at kinabukasan (It is very important that we together reminisced all the contributions made by our veterans which help shape the country’s present and future),” he said.
Galvez said one of the DND’s legislative priorities is the bill seeking to create the Philippine Veterans Authority by integrating the functions of agencies mandated to serve veterans such as PVAO, the Philippine Veterans Assistance Commission, and the Board of Trustees of the Veterans of World War II.
He added the DND is pushing for the enactment of House Bill 2490 or “An Act Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans,” which aims to uplift the lives of disabled veterans, who incurred military service-connected disability, sickness and injury.
Under the measure, disability pension rates would be increased to PHP4,500 for the lowest disability rating and up to PHP10,000 for the highest disability rating.
This would translate to a 488 percent increase from the current disability pensions rates ranging from PHP1,000 to PHP1,700 under Republic Act 6948 which was enacted in 1990.
Guided by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s vision of a stronger and better Philippines through economic recovery, national unity and nation-building, Galvez assured the stakeholders that the government will always side with the welfare and livelihood of the men and women in uniform.
“Be assured that the One Defense Team always puts importance on the well-being of our veterans, soldiers, and civilian human resource,” the DND chief said.
This year’s PVW will run from April 5 to 12 and carries the theme, “Kagitingan ng mga beterano, pundasyon ng nagkakaisang Pilipino,” the commemoration calls for unity and solidarity, as Filipinos are reminded of the value of working together and sharing in the burdens of the people.
Meanwhile, Taguig City Mayor Maria Laarni Cayetano welcomed the participants to the city for the celebration of the Araw ng Kagitingan.
She said that while Filipinos are remembering the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure the country’s freedom, it is also everyone’s duty to live by the lessons and legacies left behind for future generations.
Cadet Girl Scout Olivia Sabado from Tarlac Girl Scout Council, meanwhile, commemorated the gallant work of women veterans who were not limited by their gender and answered the call to serve the country.
She also praised the WWII veterans for their courage and encouraged the public to keep their legacies alive.
On the other hand, Eagle Scout JP Laurenz Caong, a representative from the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, expressed his profound gratitude to the veterans for their contributions to the country’s freedom.
Also present in the ceremony were Kevin McAllister, acting director of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and PVAO administrator Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, along with Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and Maj. Gen. Romeo Alamillo (retired), Veterans Federation of the Philippines executive vice president. (PNA)