By Mario Casayuran
Sen. Gregorio B. Honasan II expressed confidence that the government will increase the pension of the country’s veterans as a bill increasing the present P5,000 monthly old-age pension of World War veterans to P20,000 has started gaining ground.
Honasan, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee, sponsored Senate Bill 1766 entitling veterans of World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars who are not receiving pension from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) an increase in their old-age pension.
The increase, however, would only be limited to eligible living senior veterans and not transferable to any family members or dependents, Honasan said.
In the event of death of the senior veteran, the pension of the surviving spouse shall remain at P5,000.
“Our senior veterans have sacrificed much for our country. They invested blood, sweat and tears and in return, it is only fitting that we repay their service by taking care of them in their old age,” Honasan said.
“People who have dedicated their lives in the service of the country should, at the very least, be able to live out the rest of their days comfortably without worrying about their basic needs. Sad to say that at present, our senior veterans face a new challenge – the hardships of old age along with the meager resources that they must stretch in order to survive,” he explained.
Funding for the initial implementation would be sourced from the existing budget of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) while its continuing implementation will be already included in the yearly national budget.
In his recent sponsorship speech, Honasan noted that the last increase given by Congress was way back in 1994, when the monthly veterans’ pension was only P1,000.
But 24 years after the enactment of RA 6948 which amended RA 7696, the P5,000 annuity has undoubtedly become grossly inadequate to support the needs of the aging veterans, Honasan said.
Records from PVAO showed that as of June 2018, there are only 6,218 living senior veterans.
“Conservatively projecting for the next two years, the number will be 4,933 in 2019 and 3,851 in 2020,” Honasan pointed out.
Funding requirement for the new rate of P20,000 is estimated at P1.83 billion for 2019 and P924.24 million in 2020, further decreasing annually because of the diminishing number of senior veterans, he said.
By 2020, compared to the number of senior veterans in 2017 which was 7,220, the number shall have been more than halved, Honasan added.
“Many of them have already gone silently, unheralded. In recent years, our veterans have been passing away in numbers greater than most of us know. It is incumbent, therefore, upon us, the beneficiaries of their sacrifices, to help our senior veterans in their final march by making their journey more pleasant, knowing that we owe them a debt we can never fully repay,” he said.
“Our shared effort and support for the enactment of this bill into law is the least we can do to pay tribute to our old soldiers who know only too well that they are drawing close to the end of the day when the final taps will sound and they, too, will fade away,” he added.