LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—Gov. Amado “Pogi” I. Espino III has vowed an expanded benefits program for World War II veterans that would support the impoverished war patriots and their immediate families in the province.
Espino pledged this at the 72nd Lingayen Gulf Landings and 10th Veterans Day celebration on Monday at the Veterans’ Memorial Park within the Capitol Complex here.
“Today, in my capacity as governor of this province, I vow to pursue a more comprehensive program to give honor to our unsung heroes, by expanding our services to the less fortunate veterans and their immediate families,” he said.
Espino has directed the Provincial Population Officer, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer, and Provincial Employment Services Officer to design a special livelihood and educational assistance program for the families of veterans who are in dire need of support.
“Our World War II veterans were there when we needed them, let us be here for them in return,” he said, noting that by providing aids for the war heroes, “we can assure them of keeping their legacy of bravery.”
The veterans were treated to a medical mission and a special luncheon, and received cash incentives from the provincial government afterward.
The governor lamented the dwindling number of living war veterans, from around 15,000 at the end of World War II to only 370 as of this month.
In his speech, Espino recalled that it was during the time of his father—the former governor and current fifth district Rep. Amado T. Espino Jr.—that the Pangasinan Veterans Day was instituted as an annual event to coincide with the Lingayen Gulf Landing anniversary.
A former soldier himself, Rep. Espino then started giving “premium attention” to the war veterans and their families as well, the governor added.
Pangasinan’s veterans have received free health care services from the 14 government-owned hospitals in the province, along with free transport services, free medical and dental services and medicines, cash gifts and other tokens.
A major milestone by the provincial government was the construction of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office building within the Capitol Complex in 2015, Gov. Espino said. In the same year, Pangasinan awarded medals of valor to the veterans who did not yet receive theirs.
“Certainly, they deserve all these. However, we feel that these are not enough to reciprocate their sacrifice for our country. They deserve more,” the governor asserted.
Vice Gov. Jose Ferdinand Calimlim Jr. welcomed the crowd to the commemoration, and Dr. Vivencio Villaflor Jr. was the guest of honor and speaker of the event.
Joining Gov. Espino in the wreath-laying ceremony were Dr. Villaflor, Armed Forces of the Philippines Veterans Affairs Management Division chief Gen. Alfredo Cayton, Philippine Veterans Federation president Bonifacio de Gracia, and Australian Embassy Counselor Kerry Anderson.
Also in attendance were second district Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil, Provincial First Lady Karina Espino, AFP 702nd Battalion Commander Col. Milfredo Meligrito, Police Regional Director Chief Supt. Gregorio Pimentel, Police Provincial Director Sr. Supt. Ronald Lee, Australian Embassy Administrative Assistant Craig Cutts, and Reserve Services League of Australia member Peter Renton.