Group targets ensuring funds for veterans' benefits

May 6, 2013 10:25 pm 

MANILA, May 6 — If elected to Congress this year, Veterans Freedom Party (VFP) will work on making funds available for present and future Filipino war veterans' total administrative disability benefits under RA 7696 which government enacted in 1994.

VFP party list nominee and former legislator Eduardo Pilapil assured this group's action, noting fund availability must be sustained as RA 7696 entitles such veterans to additional monthly benefits of P1,700 each once they reach 70 years of age while their spouses and unmarried minor children are each entitled to P500 per month.

"There are several ways of generating funds to cover such pension benefits," he said at State-run PTV 4's 'Hatol ng Bayan' program for the 2013 mid-term polls.

He cited securitization and land development as among ways government can undertake to raise funds for the purpose.

VFP decided pursuing the matter as Pilapil said from 1994 to the mid-2000s, government failed paying the benefits to qualified veterans due to lack of funds.

"Government owes our veterans an estimated PhP15 billion in total unpaid benefits – we must avoid repeating this situation," he said.

In 1990, government enacted RA 6948 which defines 'veteran' as "any person who rendered military service in the land, sea or air forces of the Philippines during the revolution against Spain, the Philippine-American War, World War II (WWII), including Filipino citizens who served in Allied Forces in the Philippine territory and foreign nationals who served in Philippine forces, the Korean Campaign, the Vietnam Campaign, the Anti-Dissidence Campaign, or other wars and military campaigns; or who rendered military service in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and has been honorably discharged or separated after at least six years total cumulative active service, or sooner separated due to death or disability arising from a wound or injury received or sickness or disease incurred in line of duty while in the active service."

Government amended RA 6948 by enacting RA 7696 to enhance veterans' benefit package.

According to Pilapil, there are about 27,000 WWII veterans still living in the Philippines.

"Their average age is about 88 years," he said.

Veterans' surviving spouses number between 50,000 people to 60,000 people, he also said.

Pilapil said VFP targets filing a bill enabling government to float bonds so proceeds from sale of these can be used to settle the unpaid benefits.

"We can securitize the debt," he said.

To make the offer attractive, he said government must allow interested parties to buy the bonds at a discounted rate.

"If securitization isn't possible, however, government can use public assets to pay its debt to the veterans," Pilapil continued.

Such assets include land that can be developed for the veterans' profit, he noted.

Pilapil said VFP earlier identified other items in its target legislative agenda.

"We're looking at raising veterans' monthly pension from P5,000 at present to at least P10,000 so they can better cope with daily living," he said.

He said VFP also aims expanding veterans' hospitalization benefits.

Aside from serving in Congress, Pilapil was government's former postmaster-general and tourism chief.

He vowed to continue pursuing initiatives that'll improve the welfare of Philippine military veterans and their families.

"I'm the son of a veteran," he said. (PNA)

FPV/LOR/CJT

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