The House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Welfare approved Tuesday (Nov. 10) a substitute measure that prohibits the sale of heritage properties for veterans use and those given by the Japanese government under the 1956 Reparation Agreement, and mandates the use of the 10-percent of the proceeds from the development, lease, and use of certain government properties for veterans’ affairs and welfare.
After less than two hours of deliberations, the House panel, chaired by Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman passed a measure that substituted House Bill Nos. 702, 1921, and 5841, principally authored by Muntinlupa lone district Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, and Magdalo partylist Rep. Manuel Cabochan III. It was APEC partylist Rep. Sergio Dagooc who moved for the approval of the bill.
“The substitute bill does not propose the sale of the reparation properties in Japan. Wala pong provision sa ating substitute bill ang nagpapanukala na ibenta ang mga reparation properties sa Japan (There is no provision in our substitute bill that proposed the sale of the reparation properties in Japan),” Roman said.
To prove her point, she said Section 2 of the substitute bill specifically provides that heritage properties, and those properties given by the Japanese government under the Reparation Agreement “shall not be subject to sale.”
She also noted that the substitute bill also “proposes to utilise the proceeds that may be gained in the future from the development, lease or use of the Roponggi, Nampeidai, Noniwacho, and the Obanoyama properties in Japan to augment the budget for non-pension benefits of the veterans and the development and preservation of war memorials.”
The Reparations Agreement was entered into by the Philippines with Japan on May 9, 1956.
“Ang tinatalakay natin ay isang panukalang batas na naglalayong to regulate the use, hindi po natin pinag-uusapan ang pagbenta ng heritage properties kasama po ‘yung sa Japan,” Roman further stressed after receiving comments from social media that her panel is supposedly planning to sell the Philippine government’s properties in Japan.
(What we are discussing here is a proposed law that seeks to regulate the use, we are not talking about the sale of heritage properties, including those in Japan.)
During the hearing, the Roman panel decided to include an amendment, which provides that sale of properties “will be the last resort or option” as initially proposed by Biazon.
“if there is no control to the sale or there is no last option measure for sale, the moment we passed this law, anyone could call for the sale of these properties and you know in five years’ time the value of that property could have theoretically risen, and we have not been able to benefit from that appreciation of the property. The last option should be a sale, to ensure that it is the last option, make it difficult to be sold,” Biazon pointed out.
The proposed Act shall apply to the development, lease, use or sale of the following properties of the government:
-Veterans Center in Taguig City under Presidential Proclamation No. 192,
-Former site of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) on Arroceros St., Ermita Manila, and
-Residual assets of veterans-related public corporations dissolved by the Governance Commission on Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations (GCG) such as, but not limited to the Philippine Veterans Investment Development Corporation (PHIVIDEC), the Panay Railways INc., the Phividec Panay Agro-industrial Corporation, and other properties as may be identified by the Office of the President of the Philippines
The House panel also adopted the amendments proposed by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for Administration Jose Eduardo Malaya to the pro-war veterans’ measure.
Malaya specifically sought the inclusion of a provision that provides that “the heritage properties proclaimed for veterans and those given by or acquired from the Japanese government shall not be subject to sale.”
“Provided further, with respect to the properties acquired under Reparations Agreement, any use of development of said properties shall not entail nor result in any loss of possession of said properties or any part thereto by the Government of the Philippines under either Philippine and Japanese laws” was the amendment proposed by Malaya, which was adopted by the Roman panel.
Before the bill’s approval, Gabriela partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas manifested her “strong opposition” to the supposed new attempts to sell the country’s valuable war reparation assets in Japan supposedly to raise funds for the pension of war veterans.
She explained that the reparation properties are not valuable because of high value, but because of its “symbolic value to all Filipinos and the country’s history.”
“This representation supports the funding of payment for our veterans’ pension, but not to the extent of selling war memorials.”
Brosas led the filing of House Resolution No. 1342 opposing the planned sale of the four government properties in Japan and to preserve the historical and symbolic value of the war reparation assets.
“The national government can source adequate funds for the pension and other benefits of Filipino war veterans without resorting to the sale of the historically significant war reparation assets in Japan,” read HR No. 1342.
Joining Brosas in filing the two-page resolution were Bayan Muna partylist Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat, ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro, and Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.