More than seven months after Congress required the U.S. government to take over the care and maintenance of Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines, nothing has happened.
A 1991 volcanic eruption left the roughly 8,600 tombstones in the cemetery under up to a foot of ash just as the U.S. military was leaving Clark Air Base. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post has taken care of the cemetery since 1994, but it would take at least $2.5 million to repair all of the damage caused by the volcano.
In January, President Obama signed a law requiring the American Battle Monuments Commission to restore and operate the cemetery, but the commission has been lethargic about fulfilling its obligation, said John Gilbert, commander of VFW Post 2485 in the Philippines.
“Their intent is to do nothing until it goes away, I think,” Gilbert said. “Now that’s based on my view and little else, but they have not been the least bit forthcoming up to this point.”
Gilbert received a July 22 letter from ABMC Secretary Max Cleland that made it sound like the commission may never take over operations at the cemetery.
“As you know, the U.S. and Philippine Governments are in the process of negotiating an agreement to allow us to maintain the cemetery,” Cleland wrote. “We cannot predict when, or if such an agreement will be reached, but until then, we have no authority to act.”