LINGAYEN---The Australian embassy and the Pangasinan provincial government led by Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. honored the Australian Navy Veterans who died during the fierce “land-sea-air battle” of the Allied Forces led by American troops on the Lingayen Gulf in January, 1945 to liberate Luzon from the Japanese Imperial Army.
In a solemn and sentimental unveiling ceremony of the Australian commemorative plaque held at the Veterans Park inside the Capitol compound on February 20, Mr. Les Kennedy, president of the Commemoration Committee of Victoria said: “The Australian country had also played a very significant role during the World War II, as we, too, sacrificed our lives to help the American troops led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in liberating Luzon from the Japanese forces.”
Kennedy said the members of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) took part in the Philippine liberation where four in a fleet of 15 Australian warships figured in the big naval action of the liberation campaign.
The warships include HMAS Australia, Warrego, Warramunga, Arunta, Gascayone HDML 1074, Yusnan, Poyang, Merkur, Bishopdale, Cape Leeuwin and ML316, Benalla, Shorpshire, Karimbla, Menoora, and Westralia.
With this heroic act of the Australian and American soldiers along with Filipino veterans and guerillas, Gov. Espino said he took pride in the efforts of constructing the Veterans Memorial Park during his stint as Pangasinan PNP Provincial Director in 1994 under then Pres. Fidel V. Ramos, a war veteran himself.
On January 9, 1995, the province celebrated the 50th anniversary Gulf Landings which was restaged this year (64th landings anniversary) in fitting rites.
Gov. Espino lobbied to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and then to Malacañang to declare January 9 as Pangasinan Veterans’ Day, a special non-working holiday provincewide.
“We owe you so much, Australian government and I hope the next generation will come to know the friendship between the Filipino soldiers and the Australian soldiers during wartime,” the governor said..
Espino likewise asked the Australian embassy to furnish the province the pictures and specifications of Australian warships so that “we can make a miniature and place it here in our veterans park.”
Vice Gov. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas welcomed the Australian delegation composed of Mr. Kennedy, Lt. Col. Gary Barnes, Assistant Defence Attache’ Australian Embassy and Australian Navy Veterans led by George Rappell.
“The Australian commemorative plaque serves as a recognition of the Filipinos to the Australian soldiers for their significant participation in liberating our country from the Japanese military. And because of the heroism and gallantry of the Australian and its people, we share with you this historical veterans memorial park,” she said.
The unveiling ceremony was witnessed by the Pangasinan Veteran Federation District Commanders and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan which includes Board Members Alfonso Bince, Von Mark Mendoza, and Jeremy Rosario and provincial department heads, police officials and employees. (Merly R. Tibalao/PIO)