Thursday, May 31, 2012

22 Filipino peacekeepers gave their lives to world peace

MANILA -- Since the Philippines started sending peacekeepers to United Nations missions in 1963, twenty-two Filipinos have given their lives to the cause of world peace. And on International UN Peacekeepers Day, the country paid tribute to those who have died and those who continue to risk life and limb in war-torn places around the world.

At the celebration in the Department of Foreign Affairs Wednesday, Secretary Albert del Rosario particularly remembered two Filipino peacekeepers who were among 112 men and women who “died in the line of duty last year as a result of acts of violence, accidents, and disease.”

They are Joseph Ubaldo of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and Charles Uy of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

At a wreath-laying ceremony at UN headquarters in New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “Today we honor the 112 fallen heroes who died while serving under the United Nations flag in 2011.”

“They may be soldiers, police or national staff. But there are no differences among them in terms of the risks they faced, the contributions they made, and the pride they took in their service to the United Nations,” the UN chief said.
“The difference between an ordinary person and a hero is that the hero voluntarily braves danger to save others,” he added.

Filipina peacekeepers in Arab Spring

Among the most notable Philippine contingents was that led by Army Col. Cornelio Valencia Jr. Together with the UN Disengagement Observers’ Force (UNDOF), his team of 49 officers and 278 enlisted personnel, mostly drawn from the 76th Infantry Battalion in Southern Quezon, faced the Arab Spring protesters. Significantly, this contingent to the male-dominant region had the most number of women. Of the 28 Filipino women peacekeepers, six were officers.

At present, the Philippines has 922 military and police personnel serving as military observers, staff officers, police officers and members of formed contingents in Cote d’Ivoire, Darfur, the Golan Heights, Haiti, Kashmir, Liberia, South Sudan and Timor-Leste, the DFA said.

Other than the contingents to Liberia, Golan Heights, and Haiti, the AFP is also sending observers to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), and UN Operation in Cote d'Ivoire, Ivory Coast.

“The UN Peacekeepers Day marks a very significant event as the AFP pays homage to the efforts exerted by our peacekeepers who continue to propagate peace in foreign lands. Let this remind us of our commitment to the United Nations leadership as our peace initiatives are not only limited here in the Philippines, but also to the rest of the world,” AFP chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa said.

The Philippines first took part in UN peacekeeping operations in 1963 after President Diosdado Macapagal approved the deployment of 9th Tactical Air Force Squadron to support UN operations in the Congo. Filipino peacekeepers have since then served with the UN in Cambodia, Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan, Burundi, Kosovo, Georgia, and Nepal.

UN awards

At Wednesday’s ceremonies, del Rosario presented the Gawad Diosdado Macapagal to former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo in recognition of his role in enlarging Philippine participation in UN operations during his stint as chair of the Interagency Council on UN Peace Operations.

Aside from Secretary Romulo, the other recipients of the award were Ambassador Hilario G. Davide, Jr., who was recognized for helping expand the Philippines’ participation in UN peace operations during his term as Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York; Army Gen. Jaime de los Santos, former force commander of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, for being the first Filipino to head a UN peacekeeping force; and Police Director Rodolfo Tor, former UN Police Commissioner in Timor-Leste, for being the first Filipino police officer to serve in such a high-ranking position.

Del Rosario also handed the Gawad Diosdado Macapagal to Brig. Gen. Tesero Isleta, AFP (Ret.), who represented the officers and men of the Philippine Air Force’s 9th Tactical Squadron.

Awards were also presented to the family of Staff Sgt. Antonio Batomalaque in recognition of his heroism after becoming the first Filipino to be killed in action while serving in Haiti in 2005 and to the officers and men of the 9thTactical Fighter Squadron of the Philippine Air Force who were the first peacekeepers to be deployed overseas in 1963. The unit was represented by Brig. Gen. Tereso Isleta.  

Global peacekeepers

According to the UN chief, there are 120,000 peacekeepers serving in 17 missions around the world. “So far this year, another 31 peacekeepers have died,” he said.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, HervĂ© Ladsous, said peacekeepers help to protect millions of vulnerable civilian from violence. “This is not easy work. We go in order to give hope to people who have been through the horror of war, and who yearn for a chance to rebuild their lives in peace,” the peacekeeping chief said. 

Currently, UN peacekeeping operations receive contributions of military and police personnel from 116 Member States. In addition to the partnerships with individual nations, UN peacekeeping works closely with UN agencies, funds and programmes working on the ground, as well as with regional organizations, such as the African Union. 

The International Day is being marked with events at various peacekeeping missions, including parades and cultural programmes in the Darfur region of Sudan and in Liberia, as well as ceremonies in South Sudan and Lebanon. 


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