Oct 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/03/09MANILA544.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA544
2009-03-11 10:00
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6216
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0544/01 0701000
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 111000Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3490
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/VA CENTRAL OFC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000544

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAID PINR PREL PHUM KISL RP
SUBJECT: PROMISE OF BENEFITS DRAWS HUGE RESPONSE FROM FILIPINO VETERANS

¶1. (U) SUMMARY: With the February 17 passage of the
American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, Filipino veterans who
served under the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II became
eligible for the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation
benefit. In three weeks since the bill was signed into law,
more than 19,000 claimants in the Philippines have submitted
applications for the benefit, and the Mission expects to
disburse the first payments to Filipino veterans in
mid-April. The Embassy’s Veterans Affairs employees began
accepting applications on the day the legislation was signed
and rendered extraordinary service, establishing 12 temporary
provincial claim centers throughout the country, answering
thousands of telephone calls, and ensuring that Filipino
veterans were treated with dignity and respect in their
interactions with Embassy staff. Media have covered the
issue intensely. Strong outreach by the Ambassador and
Embassy staff has contributed to a generally positive
reaction to the Filipino veterans being granted the lump-sum
benefit, and recent press reports have focused on individual
recipients and the human interest angle. Some editorials
have commented negatively on the benefit, and some Philippine
politicians, while enthusiastic about the benefit, could not
resist attempting to curry favor with Filipino veterans
groups by lamenting how long it took to “right a historic
wrong.” Although more than 30,000 applicants are expected
to petition for benefits, only an estimated 12,000 will be
eligible, and invalidation of many claims appears inevitable.
The Mission is working actively to emphasize the high
quality of service veterans are receiving and mitigate any
potential fallout from applicants who are denied benefits.
END SUMMARY.

——————————————— ————-
MANILA VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICE PROVIDING EXCELLENT SERVICE
——————————————— ————-

¶2. (U) Since the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act was
signed into law on February 17, the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs Manila Regional Office (USDVA Manila) has
received more than 19,000 applications for the Filipino
Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) benefit, a provision of
the legislation. Approximately 18,000 surviving Filipino
veterans who fought with the U.S. Armed Forces during World
War II are eligible for the benefit, and an estimated 12,000
of them live in the Philippines. The total funding
authorized for both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens was
$198 million, with U.S. citizens receiving $15,000 and
non-U.S. citizens receiving $9,000.

¶3. (U) Anticipating a large response from the local veteran
community with which they have long and deep ties, USDVA
Manila personnel prepared in advance to accept applications
the day the legislation was enacted. Although veterans
flooded to the Embassy by the hundreds in the first two days
following the announcement, close interagency cooperation
allowed for proper facilities and security to be established.
The Embassy’s Consular Section made space available in its
waiting area to get hundreds of people out of the heat and
into a safe area, and USDVA staff attended to the elderly
veterans to ensure they were treated with dignity and respect.

¶4. (U) Embassy Manila has the only U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs office outside of U.S. territory, and the
office has sole jurisdiction for adjudicating FVEC claims,
regardless of where the claimant resides. For many years,
the USDVA Manila staff has cultivated a close relationship
with the Filipino veterans community. The depth of this
relationship was evident in the commitment USDVA staff showed
in their efforts to facilitate and streamline the application
process.

¶5. (U) By February 23, the USDVA Manila staff had worked
with the Philippine government’s Veterans Affairs Office to
set up 12 temporary provincial offices throughout the country
and 3 centers in the Metro Manila area to process claims.
Philippine officials provided facilities and assisted Embassy
personnel with logistical support. On February 24, USDVA
Manila announced it would begin taking applications by mail
to provide as many veterans as possible access to filing
their applications. To minimize travel for the veterans,
many of whom were in poor health and could hardly afford
travel, dozens of USDVA employees fanned out across the
Philippines to accept applications and process claims, an
initiative warmly welcomed by the veterans and their
families. USDVA officials believe that more than 30,000
applications will be submitted before the deadline of

MANILA 00000544 002 OF 002

February 16, 2010, though perhaps only one-third of the
applicants are likely eligible for the benefit.

—————————————-
STRONG MISSION OUTREACH BLUNTS CRITICISM
—————————————-

¶6. (U) Despite the overwhelmingly positive response from
the Filipino veterans community, the cash payment they would
receive if eligible did not deter some critics from saying
the benefit was “too little, too late,” and questioning why
Filipinos with U.S. citizenship would receive $15,000 instead
of $9,000. Philippine government officials, including
President Arroyo, while supportive of the decision to grant
benefits to Filipino veterans, opined that the decision to
“right a historic wrong” had been long in coming. The
Ambassador made a series of public appearances with veterans
groups to promote the benefit and the Mission’s readiness to
work with applicants. On February 19 — the first day the
Embassy began accepting applications — the Ambassador
greeted Filipino veterans and their families at the Embassy,
thanking them for their service. In Cebu the next day, the
Ambassador conducted media interviews to promote the FVEC
benefit, emphasize the transparent nature of the application
process, and announce that USDVA staff would be in Cebu the
following week to accept claims, contributing to the
subsequent large response in Cebu.

¶7. (U) The marquee event was a ceremony at Malacanang
Palace with President Arroyo on February 23, in which the
Ambassador and USDVA Manila officials participated in a
handover of a framed copy of the veterans equity language of
the legislation. The event garnered national coverage and
highlighted the regional outreach the Mission was undertaking
and the numerous services USDVA Manila provides Filipino
veterans. Continuing the outreach, the Ambassador addressed
a group of veterans in Baguio on February 27, and the USDVA
Manila Director has done radio and television interviews to
further clarify questions surrounding the requirements to
receive the FVEC benefit.

———-
NEXT STEPS
———-

¶8. (U) With the initial FVEC benefits expected to be
disbursed to Filipino veterans in mid-April, the Mission is
preparing for the inevitable appeals from those applicants
whose claims are rejected and potential media fallout. USDVA
Manila estimates that approximately 12,000 Filipino veterans
residing in the Philippines could qualify for the benefit,
but that more than 30,000 individuals may submit claims.
Mission officials will continue to work with the Philippine
government to ensure benefits reach those who deserve them
and that all applicants are treated compassionately.

KENNEY

   

 

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