LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) has sought the increase of the monthly pension of surviving World War II veterans from PhP5,000 to PhP20,000.

This is the reason PVAO is seeking the approval of a bill seeking a PhP1.8-billion annual budget for the agency to provide additional benefit to around 12,000 living WWII veterans throughout the country.

PVAO Administrator Ernesto Carolina said they had proposed the increase of the monthly pension of the WWII veterans by 300% to PhP20,000.

He said that the bill to this effect was already passed by the House Committees on Veterans Affairs and Appropriations and this is now being tackled before the Senate.

He added that they are awaiting certification from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that there is available fund for this purpose.

“This DBM certification would speed up the passage of the bill,” noted Carolina in a talk to newsmen after he delivered his speech as guest speaker during the 71st Anniversary of the Lingayen Gulf Landings and 9th Pangasinan Veterans’ Day held at the Veterans Memorial Park, Capitol Complex, Lingayen on Saturday, Jan. 9.

Carolina expressed optimism that the DBM will eventually find appropriation for the PhP1.8 billion needed.

“Through the years, the PhP1.8 billion will be decreased as the World War II veterans are dying at an average of 300 to 350 veterans per month,” he said, noting that after WW11, there were 360,000 veterans.

He said further that the national government has approved in its 2016 budget an appropriation worth PhP3.5 billion to provide a PhP1,700 monthly disability pension to the more than 20,000 war veterans’ surviving spouses.

Meanwhile, the PVAO head thanked the provincial government, led by Gov. Amado Espino Jr., in partnering with them to honor the heroic deeds of the veterans and in “molding the younger generation to be future defenders of the nation.”

He hailed the province’s move in declaring Jan. 9 of every year as Pangasinan Veterans Day, in providing facilities to the PVAO field office serving not only Pangasinan but outlying provinces, and in providing “cozy place” (Capitol Complex) for the veterans to relive their experiences.

He added that Pangasinan can be considered as the Philippine cradle of heroes since it has the most number of veterans across the country.

A retired lieutenant general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Carolina also recalled the vital role Lingayen played “not only in Philippine World History but in the whole World War 2 History.”

He said there would’ve been no battle to liberate Manila if there was no landing at Lingayen gulf.

Lingayen was the most suitable backdoor to Manila for its would-be liberators as it provided protected anchorage; was near to several roads in Luzon leading to Manila; was well-removed from heavy concentration of forces and enforcement around Manila Bay; and provided continuous supply of food, weapons, and other logistics, he said.

For his part, Espino told the public to continue the fight of the veterans through right means.

“Let us protect the environment and fight poverty and crimes as illegal drugs,” he remarked.

After the commemorative program, the veterans and their children were provided with free medical mission.

Espino said the province’s observance of Veterans Day since 2008, by virtue of a provincial proclamation in 2007, is a way of thanking the heroism and valor of the war veterans. PNA / northboundasia.com