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29 MAY 2009
RP COMMEMORATES ITNERNATIONAL DAY OF UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPERS
NEW YORK—The Philippines marked the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers today by paying special tribute to Filipino peacekeepers, especially those who have given up their lives in the cause of peace.
In a statement, Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, extolled Filipino peacekeepers for bringing honor to the Philippines by helping keep the peace and rebuild lives in conflict areas worldwide.
“Today, we pay tribute to the men and women from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police for helping make our world a safer place to live in,” Ambassador Davide said. “We specially remember those who have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of peace.”
The Philippine Mission to the United Nations said the Philippines first participated in UN peacekeeping missions when it deployed an air force squadron to support the United Nations Operations in the Congo in 1963. It has since then deployed Filipino blue helmets to conflict zones as near as Cambodia and Timor Leste to as far as Burundi and Liberia.
As of April 2009, the Philippines has a total of 562 peacekeepers deployed in Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Darfur, Georgia, Haiti, Liberia, the Sudan and Timor-Leste, making it the 30th largest contributor of peacekeepers to UN operations. The Philippines also has the distinction of being the second largest contributor of individual police officers with 293 officers serving in UN mission areas. Until recently, the Philippines had peacekeepers in Nepal and Kosovo.
In his statement, Ambassador Davide lauded the members of the 8th Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent in Haiti under Col. Raymundo Elefante for helping rescue students who were trapped in the rubble of a collapsed school building in Port-au-Prince in November.
“Filipino peacekeepers rose to the challenge in Haiti by rushing to the scene of the tragedy and using their bare hands to dig through the rubble to rescue the living and recover the dead,” Ambassador Davide said. “Actions such as those carried out by Colonel Elefante and his men indeed make us proud.”
The ambassador also cited the case of Lt. Col. Renerio Batalla of the Philippine Army who died of malaria while serving as a military observer in the Sudan in 2007. Lieutenant Colonel Batalla’s widow received the Dag Hammarksjold Medal in the Service of Peace from Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo in ceremonies in Manila earlier today.
Lieutenant Colonel Batalla is among 16 Filipino peacekeepers who died in the line of duty since the Philippines first participated in UN peacekeeping operations in 1963. In 2005, the Philippines suffered its first combat fatality when Haitian gunmen shot and killed Staff Sgt. Antonio Batomalaque in Port-au-Prince.
The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was commemorated in Manila with ceremonies at the Department of Foreign Affairs that was also attended by officials from the Department of National Defense, the Department of the Interior and Local Governments, the AFP, the PNP and members of the diplomatic corps.
The event was in accordance with Proclamation 1755 signed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on 16 April 2009 declaring May 29 of each year as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers in the Philippines. ###
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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