DAGUPAN CITY — Pangasinan (2nd District) Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil expressed optimism that his bill seeking to increase the old age pension of veterans who fought during World War II, from the current PHP5,000 a month to PHP20,000 a month, will be approved this year and included in the General Appropriations Act next year.
Bataoil, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, however, observed that this important piece of legislation is receiving a cold shoulder from the committee on appropriations which appears to be not considering the measure a priority.
But the congressman from Pangasinan, speaking during the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) forum on Thursday, said such a bill is a priority considering that there is now only less than 8,000 veterans alive whose average age is 95 years old.
These heroes who did not hesitate to risk their lives so the Filipinos of this generation will be free must enjoy the benefit of increased pension in their few remaining years in life before they all rest in peace, he added.
Records of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) showed there are now less than 8,000 living veterans from among 300,000 veterans after the war. Their ranks are continuously thinning fast as they are dying at the rate of 300 a month due to old age and failing health, said Bataoil.
He believes that if Congress will not act fast, the less than 8,000 veterans that had remained will all be dead probably in less than three years.
“But until now, despite our continuing efforts, together with my colleagues in the committee, the bill is not being given a chance to pass in the committee on appropriations, which may have other priorities in mind,” Bataoil added.
He said their last recourse is to seek the support of President Rodrigo Duterte who has a heart for the veterans and the retirees in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
But he said he is not giving up the fight for the welfare of the veterans and remains confident that his bill will be passed soon, considering that the government will only need PHP2 billion to effect the measure.
Bataoil gives the bill a 75-percent chance of approval and called on the people to help him persuade his other colleagues to pass this very important measure very soon.
“I will reiterate to Congressman Nograles on the need to have this bill approved when he comes to Pangasinan on Feb. 26, said Bataoil, saying that in his talk with the veterans in various parts of the Philippines, they expressed feeling that this country and government seemed to have already forgotten their sacrifices during the war more than 70 years ago.
At the same time, he revealed that he sponsored a bill seeking the construction and establishment of the Veteran Memorial Medical Centers (VVMs) in Northern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
He noted that only the veterans in Metro Manila are going to the modern VMMC in Quezon City, but not those from the provinces as they are reluctant to leave their place when seeking medical help.
But considering that this needs a huge capital outlay and the putting up of infrastructures as well as the needed human resources to run all the facilities, he is not optimistic that the bill will be acted upon in Congress soon.
He, however, praised PVAO and the VMMC for entering Memorandums of Agreements (MOAs) with hospitals in the provinces that will serve the medical needs of veterans with the expenses to be reimbursed by them. PNA-northboundasia.com