President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the speedy release of P6.4 billion for the pension of World War 2 veterans.
The President made the announcement after paying tribute to the valiant stand of Filipino and American soldiers during the commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor in Mt. Samat, Bataan.
“I have directed the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of National Defense to expedite the early release of the retirement pension of veterans. This is from 2008 to 2013, worth P6.4 billion,” Duterte said in his speech.
“We are prioritizing your entitlements. Our surviving veterans have suffered much. They should not suffer more. Mabuhay ang mga beterano, mabuhay ang Pilipinas. Saludo ako sa inyo, sirs. (I salute you, sirs),” he added.
The President however stressed that no compensation is enough for the gallant fight of the veterans in defending the country from Japanese colonizers 75 years ago.
If not for the bravery of Filipino and American soldiers, more areas could have been devastated, he said.
“No matter what we do, we can never do enough to repay you. We must never forget who endured the war for the sake of the future. We are the future that they fought for,” Duterte said.
“This monument stands firmly for those who have fought and fell. Our people did not die in vain. We will never waiver in our efforts to secure what is best for the greatest common good for our nation. This is our burden to bear, “ he added.
Likewise, the President recognized the Philippines’ longstanding alliance with Japan and the US which he described as allies in peace and development.
While he has expressed opposition to American military assistance in the past, Duterte sang a different tune on Sunday, saying Philippines-US relations should move forward.
“We were a young democracy then and we had to fight colonizers. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our only defense treaty ally, the United States. This should affirm the basis of moving our relationship forward, with full and mutual respect for sovereignty,” the President said.
“We fought together to stave off the enemy, and now we are helping each other address issues that confront our societies, regions and the world,” Duterte added.
The President did not mention the territorial dispute in the South China Sea but he underscored that disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner.
“This [peaceful resolution of disputes]is a responsibility of all states, great and small,” Duterte said.
The President paid tribute to the war veterans.
“On this day, we revere the greatness of our fellow Filipinos who fought and gave their lives for our country in 1942. This day is a commemoration of a gallant stand and love of country, not only of the soldiers but of all Filipinos—fathers, children, brothers, sisters, friends, who all gave their lives to defend our country from oppression perpetrated by the colonizers,” Duterte said in a statement.
The Fall of Bataan saw thousands of prisoners of war forced to march from Bataan to Tarlac by the Japanese colonizers, with many of them dying due to hunger and sickness.
“Together with all Filipinos, I thank all those who fought for and stood for the country back then. Their valiant stand will remain in the heart of each Filipino who dream of a free, peaceful and progressive nation,” Duterte said.
“I have faith that we can heal our country from a cancer that has been stunting our growth by working together. Guided by freedom, justice and hope, let’s heed the call of real change,” Duterte added.