The Philippines has assured the United Nations (UN) that it will send a 336-strong peacekeeping battalion to the Golan Heights in Syria to help them keep peace in the conflict-ridden area, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Monday.
"It is a great honor for the Philippines to be given the opportunity to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Despite our own constraints and requirements, we can be expected to continue to fulfill our obligations as a responsible and reliable troop-contributing country," Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro assured UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy on Monday.
Teodoro just arrived from a six-day official visit to the US. During the visit, he held talks with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hilario G. Davide Jr.
The DND chief assured Le Roy that the Philippines will strictly enforce “a zero-tolerance policy" against misconduct and select only the best personnel for the peacekeeping mission. He also said he will look into increasing the number of female personnel available for deployment overseas.
The first Philippine battalion to Golan Heights will start deployment by the end of September with a 12-man advance party. They will take over the peacekeeping responsibilities of the Polish Battalion in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) mission area before the end of October.
"The UNDOF is a big step forward for the Philippines and is a mark of confidence in the country’s ability to send larger units to support UN peacekeeping operations abroad," Teodoro said.
For his part, Le Roy expressed his gratitude for the help that Filipino peacekeepers give the UN in bringing peace and stability in conflict areas across the globe, specifically in Haiti, Liberia, and Timor Leste. The UN is looking forward to more contributions from the Philippines in the future, he said.
Davide said the Philippines first participated in UN peacekeeping operations in the 1960s with the deployment of an Air Force squadron in the Congo.
Since then, the country has sent military and police personnel to UN missions in Cambodia, Burundi, Georgia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, and Nepal.
At present, the Philippines is the 29th largest troop contributor to UN peace operations with a total of 611 Filipino peacekeepers deployed – consisting of 295 troops, 22 military observers, and 294 police officers serving in Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Darfur, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, and Timor Leste.
This number does not include the three military officers who were recently sent to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region. - GMANews.TV
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