Obama signs bill on Clark vet cemetery restoration-A A +A
Friday, January 11, 2013
CLARK FREEPORT -- Bipartisan legislation introduced by US Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to restore the Clark Veterans Cemetery, which is the final resting place in the Philippines for more than 8,300 US service members and their dependents, was signed into law recently by US President Barack Obama.
Guy Hilbero, Mabalacat Tourism officer and executive officer of the 26th US Cavalry and Philippine Scouts Memorial Regiment based here, said the law will place the 20-acre Clark cemetery under the responsibility of the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Following a volcanic eruption in 1991, the US abandoned Clark Air Force Base, leaving the cemetery covered in ash and overgrown by weeds.
Ayotte’s legislation, which was cosponsored by US Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), will require the cemetery to be restored and maintained.
Since 1994, volunteers in the Philippines have attempted to maintain the cemetery without assistance from the US Government.
In April 2010, Senators Ayotte and Begich introduced The Remembering America’s Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act (S. 2320), which had 15 bipartisan cosponsors and requires the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to restore, operate, and maintain Clark Veterans Cemetery to honor the courageous Americans buried there.
The ABMC is an independent agency of the US government responsible for managing overseas cemeteries and monuments.
Because Clark Veterans Cemetery is a permanent American cemetery in a foreign country, ABMC is the appropriate federal agency to oversee the cemetery’s management and maintenance.
In addition to cemeteries and monuments in Europe, the ABMC also maintains Mexico City National Cemetery in Mexico and Corozal American Cemetery in Panama, both of which are similar to the Clark Veterans Cemetery.
The Ayotte-Begich legislation was endorsed by The Military Coalition, The National Military Veterans Alliance, and the Military Officers Association of America.
American war veterans residing in Angeles City and other parts of Pampanga have been maintaining the cemetery since the US military abandoned the air base here during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. (Reynaldo Navales)
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on January 12, 2013.