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12 OCTOBER 2009
FIRST BATCH OF PHILIPPINE PEACEKEEPERS ARRIVE IN GOLAN HEIGHTS
NEW YORK—Filipino troops hit the ground running as they assumed their peacekeeping duties with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights immediately upon their arrival in Syria on Sunday, the Philippine Mission to the United Nations said today.
In its report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Mission said 161 troops comprising the first batch of the 1st Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent to the Golan Heights under Army Lt. Col. Milfredo Melegrito arrived in Damascus on Sunday afternoon and immediately assumed their positions.
The Philippine Mission said the peacekeepers—made up of 28 officers and 133 enlisted men—left the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Pampanga on board a United Nations-chartered aircraft past midnight Sunday. A second batch of 161 officers and enlisted personnel will complete the deployment when they arrive in Syria on November 1.
The Philippine Mission was informed that upon their arrival on Sunday, the Filipino peacekeepers established their headquarters at Camp Ziouani and took over positions that have been turned over by their Polish counterparts. They were joined by the 14-man advance party that was deployed to the area two weeks ago to prepare for their arrival.
The Filipino troops are expected to immediately start patrolling and monitoring the southern portion of the so-called Area of Separation—a hilly 80-kilometer stretch in the Golan Heights that has been under UN supervision since the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
The Philippine Contingent will form part of the 1,023-strong UNDOF peacekeeping force that also includes troops from Austria, Canada, Croatia, India and Japan who have been tasked by the Security Council to maintain the ceasefire and supervise the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces and the so-called Areas of Separation and Limitation between the two parties.
According to the Philippine Mission, Manila committed to send a total of 336 peacekeepers after it was requested by the United Nations to support UNDOF following the decision of Poland to end its peacekeeping presence in the Golan Heights where it has been serving since 1994.
Poland is expected to formally turnover command to the Philippines in ceremonies scheduled at Camp Ziouani on 22 October. It will retain a presence in the area until after the Philippines completes its deployment next month.
The Philippine presence in the Golan Heights is Manila’s biggest overseas deployment since it supported UN operations in East Timor in 2000 and is also considered the most challenging of all the UN peacekeeping missions the Philippines is participating in.
This deployment is expected to boost Philippine contributions to UN peacekeeping operations. In addition to the battalion-size unit it deployed to the Golan Heights, the Philippines also has contributed company-size units in Haiti and Liberia as well as military observers and staff officers in Cote d’ Ivoire, Kashmir, Sudan and Timor-Leste. ###
ELMER G. CATO First 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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