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05 MARCH 2010
ROMULO CITES RP TROOPS FOR HELPING KEEP PEACE IN MIDDLE EAST
CAMP FAOUAR, Syria—Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo on Friday extolled Filipino troops serving under the United Nations in the Golan, saying their presence here helps keep the peace in the Middle East.
“I congratulate the men and women of the 1st Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent in the Golan for effectively shouldering our responsibility as a member of the family of nations in helping keep the peace in this part of the world. You all have made us proud,” Secretary Romulo said during the medal parade ceremonies for Filipino peacekeepers serving with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
Secretary Romulo led dignitaries that included UNDOF Head of Mission and Force Commander Maj. Gen. Natalio C. Ecarma III and Philippine Ambassador to Damascus Wilfredo Cuyugan in pinning UN service medals on the 342 Filipino peacekeepers under Army Col. Milfredo Melegrito.
“We hope that the presence in the Golan of Filipino peacekeepers would contribute to the quest for peace in this part of the Middle East,” Secretary Romulo told the members of the contingent. “We Filipinos are friends to all and it is my hope that the excellent relationship that the Philippines has nurtured over the years with the countries of the region would help make your job here in UNDOF easier.”
Secretary Romulo began his speech by paying tribute to Major General Ecarma, former Deputy Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps, who formally assumed command of UNDOF on March 1, replacing Austrian Maj. Gen. Wolfgang Jilke.
“General Ecarma has made history by becoming the first Filipino to be appointed head of a UN peacekeeping mission and the second to be named commander of a UN peacekeeping force,” Secretary Romulo said. “His appointment is indeed a great honor for the Philippines and the Filipino people and a clear proof that Philippine participation in peacekeeping operations has gone a long way.”
The visit to the Golan of Secretary Romulo, who is also the chair of the Inter-Agency Council on UN Peacekeeping Operations, was the first by a Secretary of Foreign Affairs to a peacekeeping mission area and came five months after the Philippines first deployed troops to support UNDOF.
Considered one of the longest-running UN peacekeeping missions, UNDOF was established by the Security Council in 1974 to end the Yom Kippur or Arab-Israeli War and is mandated to supervise the ceasefire between Israel and Syria; oversee the disengagement of their forces; and monitor the so-called areas of separation and limitation between the two countries. UNDOF is made up of 1,042 troops from the Philippines, Austria, Canada, Croatia, India, Japan and Poland.
“UNDOF can be considered a success story by virtue of the fact that its 35 years of existence has been marked by relative peace and stability. No incident has shattered the calm here in the Golan and we do hope it remains the same,” Secretary Romulo said.
In addition to UNDOF, the foreign secretary said Filipino peacekeepers are also serving in Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Darfur, Haiti, Kashmir, Liberia, Sudan and Timor-Leste. Filipino peacekeepers have also previously served in Iraq, Burundi, Georgia, Kosovo and Nepal.
With a total of 1,062 Filipino military and police personnel deployed overseas as of the end of January, the Philippines has emerged as the UN’s 24th largest troop contributor. This figure represents a 40 percent jump in the number of peacekeepers serving overseas compared to the total Philippine peacekeeping deployments during the previous year.
In his speech, Secretary Romulo also paid tribute to the three Filipino peacekeepers who perished during the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that leveled the UN headquarters in Port-au-Prince early this year.
“Allow me to pay tribute to those who have given up their lives in the cause of peace, most especially the three members of the 10th Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent serving with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti who perished in the earthquake that struck Haiti. Indeed, there is no greater sacrifice than for a man to lay down his life for his fellowmen. They will always be remembered,” Secretary Romulo said. ###
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