[PHOTO  AT  LEFT - WE REMEMBER: Elias Manlapaz, 86, who commanded the 31st Division of the Philippine Army during World War II, salutes during the flag-raising ceremony kicking off the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Corregidor yesterday. - Photo By MANNY MARCELO]

CORREGIDOR, BATAAN (AP), March 3, 2005 (STAR)  Philippine and US soldiers raised their flags yesterday on Corregidor island in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the island’s liberation from Japanese forces in World War II.

On March 2, 1945, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the wartime commander of allied forces in the Pacific, raised the American flag on Corregidor, three years after he was ordered to leave it as the Japanese were invading the Philippines, then a US colony.

President Arroyo, US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, and the envoys of Britain, Australia and New Zealand — wartime allies of the United States — offered wreaths at the Pacific War Memorial, where a brief program was held beside ruins of US garrisons.

Beth Day Romulo, president of the Corregidor Foundation, recalled "that glorious day when Corregidor Island was finally retaken" following 14 days of fierce combat between Japanese and US forces, including paratroopers from the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team.

Military historians say of 6,550 Japanese soldiers on the island, only 50 survived. The paratroopers lost 169 men.

Romulo said Corregidor, also known as "The Rock" and now a tourist destination, should be preserved as a "dramatic reminder of the horrors of war and the courage of those who lived and died here."

Ricciardone said commemorating the sacrifices of US and Filipino soldiers was an opportunity "to rededicate ourselves to paying that same price they paid to upholding ever and always the cause of freedom and democracy" by strengthening alliances "including some of those who were our adversaries in World War II."

Ricciardone said the American government is committed to grant compensation to Filipino war veterans during the second term of the Bush presidency.

The ambassador responded to Sen. Richard Gordon’s call for compensation for war veterans who are still in the Philippines. Gordon, co-chairman of the World War II 60th Anniversary Philippine Organizing Committee, said Filipino veterans were at the forefront of the war fighting for freedom.

Ricciardone expressed support to the proposal, saying "It is important to compensate our veterans. We should remember them not only in ceremonies like this."

The Americans held a separate ceremony for the paratroopers attended by Maj. Gen. Elbert N. Perkins, commander of the US Army Japan and 9th Theater Support Command.

The 503rd Veterans Association said in a message read by Ricciardone: "The sons of America, like their fathers and grandfathers, face a new war, a war against extremist terrorism."

"Once again, good men — our best and brightest — struggle so that others may live in liberty," it said.

About 20 Filipino and American soldiers made a parachute jump on Corregidor. The Japan-based 296th US Army Band played marching and memorial hymns.

Only a handful of aging Filipino World War II veterans were present. A US Embassy staffer said invitations were sent to US veterans, but none came.

Ricardo Catahan, a Filipino civilian with the US engineering corps that provided logistics to US and Filipino forces on Bataan and Corregidor, felt honored by the ceremonies.

"We are proud that our sacrifice has been recognized," the 86-year-old former US Air Force auditor said.

The tadpole-shaped island, at the mouth of Manila Bay, was built into a fortified battery after the United States took over the Philippines from Spanish colonizers in the early 1900s.

However, Corregidor’s powerful guns were hardly used during the Japanese invasion because they were oriented toward the South Sea, to the southwest, while the enemy swept in from Luzon island in the north. — With Pia Lee-Brago

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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