MT. SAMAT, Bataan—The United States has awarded a $9,000 lump sum compensation to the first batch of Filipino World War II veterans who qualified for benefits under the $787-billion stimulus package passed by the US Congress in February.
US Ambassador Kristie Kenney awarded the certificates of recognition to retired Col. Rafael Estrada and retired Brig. Gen. Felix Pestana during the 67th commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan yesterday at the Mt. Samat Shrine.
Defense Undersecretary for Veterans Affairs Ernesto Carolina said doctors did not allow the third awardee, 87-year-old Salvador Prinsesa, to travel from Legazpi City because he was suffering from mild pneumonia.
Prinsesa, president of the Philippine Veterans Legion, was a former intelligence officer of the guerrillas based in Bicol.
Estrada, chairman emeritus of the Armed Forces Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Inc., and Pestana, a retired Air Force official, are both survivors of the Death March. Kenney said at least 26,000 Filipino World War II veterans had applied for the lump-sum benefits as of Friday last week.
“We are processing those applications. More notices of whether their application was approved or whether we need more information will be going out this week,” Kenney said.
“If there’s anyone who thinks they are eligible to apply, they lose absolutely nothing in applying.”
Carolina said that of the 18,000 Filipino veterans in the master list of the US Veterans Affairs Office since September last year, the claimants were now down to roughly 16,000.
Representations would have to be made in the future for at least 18,000 other claimants who were not in the list, or a total of 36,000 veterans.
Filipino veterans have up to one year to personally make their claims to avail themselves of the $9,000 lump-sum benefit for Filipino citizens and $15,000 for those who have acquired US citizenship.
President Arroyo recalled her own family’s role in fighting the Japanese occupation forces.
“My father [the late president Diosdado Macapagal] was a finance officer in the guerrilla unit under Col. Ramsey,” she said.
“He was faithful in taking care of the funds of the guerilla movement; that is why he earned the moniker Macapagal The Incorruptible. My uncle, Tiyo Angel, was among those who survived the Death March.”Last Updated (Tuesday, 30 November 1999 00:00)