MANILA — To promote the rights and well-being of Filipino war veterans, lawmakers are appealing to their Senate counterparts to pass HB 1222 which seeks to establish a US-based Office of Veterans Affairs.
HB 1222, approved on third reading by the House of Representatives as early as May 19, 2014, mandates the establishment and maintenance of an Office of Veterans Affairs in the Philippine Embassy in the United States to ensure that the Filipino veterans shall receive the benefits and privileges due them.
“Despite the veterans’ receiving compensation for their service to the country, they have yet to enjoy their full benefits and privileges from the American government with whom they fought and served to gain independence and peace,” Reps. Rufus B. Rodriguez and Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez, authors of HB 1222, stressed.
They noted that as of June 2007, the Philippine Veterans Affairs logged 249,987 pensioners, 183,274 were receiving their old age pension, 16, 995 their disability pension, and 39,718 pensions were released.
“Of those receiving their old age pension, 158,022 receive their benefits through the bank, while the rest receives theirs through snail mail,” Rodriguez said, noting that the House approved a similar bill during the 15th Congress but failed to act on it.
The proposed US-based OVA would be mandated to represent, negotiate and lobby for the rights of the Filipino veterans with the appropriate US offices or agencies concerned with veterans’ affairs.
The US-based OVA shall be headed by an appointee of the President of the Philippines and two (2) administrative assistants assigned by the Secretary of National Defense and other locally hired staff members.
HB 1222 mandates that the office shall be maintained for five (5) years after its date of establishment or until the Filipino veterans shall have availed of their legitimate claims, the time of which shall not exceed another five (5) years.
Funding for the maintenance and operation of the OVA shall be sourced from the budget of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office and if its continued operation is necessary, funding shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.