NEW YORK (June 25) —I n what is going to be its biggest overseas deployment in almost a decade, the Philippines will be sending more than 300 troops to join United Nations peacekeepers in the Golan Heights in Syria, the Philippine Mission to the United Nations said today.
In his report to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, Ambassador Hilario G. Davide Jr., Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said a composite battalion of 336 Filipino peacekeepers will be deployed in September to serve with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights.
Ambassador Davide, at the same time, reported that the Philippines will also be sending military observers to support the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which is supervising the ceasefire in the contested state of Jannu and Kashmir.
Ambassador Davide said the deployments to the Golan Heights and Kashmir were upon the invitation of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and are being carried out under the UN Standby Arrangement System (UNSAS) that the Philippines formally entered into during the visit to Manila last year of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
The Golan Heights deployment is considered significant since this would be the first time the Philippines will deploy a sizeable unit since 2001 when it deployed over 600 peacekeepers to support the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).
“In our own little way, we would help keep the peace in that part of the Middle East,” Ambassador Davide said, noting the excellent relations the Philippines enjoys with both Israel and Syria.
UNDOF was established as part of diplomatic efforts to ease the tensions that followed the 1973 Yom Kippur War that saw Israel successfully defend territory in the Golan Heights that it seized from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War. The Agreement on Disengagement that both sides signed in 1974 called for an area of separation and two equal zones of limited forces and armaments to be supervised by a UN observer force.
According to Ambassador Davide, the Philippine contingent will be replacing a battalion of peacekeepers from Poland and will join more than 1,000 peacekeepers from Austria, Canada, Croatia, Japan, India and Poland that are presently stationed across the so-called area of separation.
Ambassador Davide said three officers will also soon join around 40 military observers from Chile, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Korea, Sweden and Uruguay who are currently serving in UNMOGIP.
The latest deployments are expected to improve the standing of the Philippines as a troop contributing country. The Philippines is presently the 30th largest contributor of peacekeepers with 613 military and police peacekeepers serving in eight UN missions in Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Georgia, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan and Timor Leste.