Saturday, 10 April 2010

P1.2-billion package for war vets

Japan envoy sorry for Death March
Manila Bulletin

President Arroyo Friday arrived with good news for at least 18,000 living World War II veterans, mostly residing in the United States.

Marking the celebration of the Valor Day, she authorized the release of P1.2 billion worth of benefits for their selfless service during the war. Some 200,000 Filipinos fought alongside with their American troops during the war.

She asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) to work hand in hand to immediately pay the veterans.

“I return to Manila today, the Veteran’s Day with good news. I have directed DBM and PVAO to pay this month P1.2 billion worth of benefits to war veterans, in payment of the arrears of their total administrative disability to war veterans,” the President said.

As this developed, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Makoto Katsura expressed his heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse over the damage caused by the Japanese military in the Philippines during World War II, including the tragic Bataan Death March.

He said that after the war, “Japan was reborn as a peace-loving nation, and post-war Japan has firmly resolved to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world, without allowing the terrible lessons of the war to erode.”

Thousands of qualified war veterans also received their checks from the US government after US President Barack Obama signed in February last year the Stimulus Law or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that provided lump sum payments of $15,000 and $9,000 to Filipino veterans living in the United States and in the Philippines, respectively.

In commemorating the valor of Filipino war veterans who fought during World War II, Malacañang paid tribute to the valuable contributions of at least 8 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Charito Planas said on the occasion of Araw ng Kagitingan, the executive extended the same recognition and tribute to the “new breed of heroes.”

“Many of our OFWs are actually unsung heroes who, in the course of their tasks abroad, have aided and rescued victims of calamities and disasters…and some even lost their own lives in their attempt to save others,” she told reports.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) attributed the country’s strong momentum during the global downturn to the continued flow of OFW remittances.

Speaking during the Araw ng Kagitingan rites at the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Bataan, Katsura said, “In this context, I am deeply moved by the Filipino people’s noble spirit of reconciliation and sense of fairness. Indeed, the Filipino people have been appreciating Japan as we are today – a peace-loving nation that shares the fundamental values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights.”

He noted that Filipinos have also been taking a future-oriented attitude with a view to deepening the friendly relations between the two countries.

“On our part, we have been trying our best to assist the Philippines’ nation-building efforts as the largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA). In trade and investment fields too, we are one of the largest partners for the Philippines,” the Ambassador further stated.

Katsura recalled that during the official visit of President Arroyo to Tokyo in 2009, it was agreed at the summit meeting to foster a “Strategic Partnership for the Future” between the two countries, based on the entry into force of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in December 2008.

According to the Ambassador, Japan’s deep commitment to peace and development in Mindanao has been further enhanced, stating that the recent resumption of the peace negotiations between GRP and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a most welcome development.

Meanwhile, De Castro, who noted it will be his last time to stand in front of the Dambana ng Kagitingan as Vice President of the country, expressed the nation’s eternal gratitude to the courage and valor shown by the Filipino soldiers in World War II, even as he called on candidates in the coming elections to pause from their hectic campaign schedule and “reflect for a moment on the lessons and spirit of the historic moments we recall today.”

The Vice President apologized not less than 10 times to the heroes of the second world war – both living those who have departed – for the times the Filipino people and the nation, and the politicians and those in government in particular – have forgotten or failed to recognized and give respect to their sacrifices for the freedom and democracy that we are all enjoying today.

De Castro said we now live in times that call for similar valor and courage shown by Filipino soldiers in the second world war.

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