NEW YORK (June 4) — The Philippines marked the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers last May 29 by paying special tribute to Filipino peacekeepers, especially those who have given up their lives in the cause of peace.
In a statement, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Hilario G. Davide, Jr. 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.
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. Actions such as those carried out by Colonel Elefante and his men indeed make us proud,” Ambassador Davide said.
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 on May 29.
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 Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, 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.