NEW YORK (Sept. 13) — Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. assured the United Nations on Friday the Philippines will continue to send troops to help the world body keep the peace in conflict areas abroad despite constraints brought about by the country’s own security requirements.
Secretary Teodoro gave the assurance to the United Nations Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping, Allain Le Roy, even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stepped up its preparations for the deployment to the Golan Heights in Syria of a 336-strong peacekeeping battalion.
“It is a great honor for the Philippines to be given the opportunity to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations,” Secretary Teodoro told Undersecretary General Le Roy. “Despite our own constraints and requirements, we can be expected to continue to fulfill our obligations as a responsible and reliable troop contributing country.”
Secretary Teodoro said the Philippines is looking forward to its participation in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, which Manila considers to be its biggest and most challenging mission since its participation in UN operations in Timor Leste almost a decade ago.
Secretary Teodoro said UNDOF is a big step forward for the Philippines and is a mark of confidence in the ability of the country to send larger units to support UN peacekeeping operations abroad.
He said the 1st Philippine Battalion to the Golan Heights will start deploying at the end of the month beginning with a 12-man advance party. The entire contingent is expected to be on the ground and take over the peacekeeping responsibilities of the Polish Battalion in the UNDOF mission area before the end of October.
Secretary Teodoro also assured Undersecretary General Le Roy that the Philippines will strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy against misconduct and will choose only the best personnel for the mission. He said he will also look into how to increase the number of female personnel for deployment overseas.
For his part, Undersecretary General Le Roy expressed his gratitude for Philippine contributions and the important role Filipino peacekeepers play in helping the UN bring peace and stability in conflict areas across the globe, specifically in Haiti, Liberia and Timor Leste. He said the United Nations is looking forward to more contributions from the Philippines in the future.
Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN, said the Philippines has gone a long way since it first participated in UN peacekeeping operations with the deployment of an Air Force squadron in the Congo in the 1960s. The Philippines has since contributed military and police personnel to UN missions in Cambodia, Burundi, Georgia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo and Nepal.
Ambassador Davide said that at present, the Philippines is the 29th largest troop contributor to UN peace operations with a total of 611 Filipino peacekeepers, made up of 295 troops, 22 military observers and 294 police officers serving in Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Darfur, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan and Timor Leste. The number does not include the three military officers who were sent this month to serve with the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) in the disputed Kashmir region.