17 May 2012, Camp Ziouani, Golan Heights – After three months of deployment in the Golan Heights under the aegis of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the 5th Philippine Contingent received UN Medals in recognition of their valuable service in the name of peace and security in the region.
The awarding of medals to contingents in the Golan Heights is symbolic and a token of appreciation given by the United Nations to contingents for their contribution to the maintenance of peace and security in the Golan Heights.
The Philippine Contingent forms part of the peacekeeping force composed of troops coming from Austria, Canada, Croatia, India and Japan who have been tasked by the UN Security Council to maintain the ceasefire and supervise the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the so-called Areas of Separation and Limitation between the two parties.
Together with his staff Officers, Lt. Col. Ramon Estella, Commanding Officer of the Philippine Battalion, led his troops during the Medal Parade and the pinning of the UN Medals. His Excellency Generoso D.G. Calonge, Ambassador of the Philippines to Israel, and Maj. Gen. Natalio C. Ecarma III, Head of Mission and Force Commander of UNDOF, attended the ceremony as special guests. The respective contingent commanders of contributing states to UNDOF, liaison officers of the Israel Defense Force (IDF), and members of the Filipino Community in Israel were also present during the parade.
Lt. Col. Ramon Estella, in his speech, congratulated the recipients of the UN medal and told them that it serves as their inspiration to work even harder to perform their responsibilities. He rallied his men to continue displaying world class professionalism at all times. Lt. Col. Estella and his men assumed command in February 2012 and they are expected to finish their tour of duty by August 2012.
For his part, Ambassador Generoso D.G. Calonge said that their assignment is a rare duty and distinct privilege accorded to a unique few who have the ability to withstand the rigors and responsibilities of an international peacekeeping mission. Ambassador Calonge reiterated that it is the pride and honor of the Philippines to join UN peacekeeping operations as it bolsters the country's prestige in the international community. "Your presence here is a testament of our commitment to the UN as one of the founding nations of this international organization", the Ambassador said.
"Always remember that you stand on the foundation built by the previous contingents, and that as you fulfill your duties and responsibilities in UNDOF, you also build upon that foundation for the other forthcoming Philippine contingents", Ambassador Calonge added.
Maj. Gen. Natalio C. Ecarma III, the first Filipino general in UNDOF, reminded the contingent that it is incumbent on them to protect the image of the Philippines in the host countries and that they represent no less than the entire Filipino nation. He congratulated the men and women of the Philippine contingent who have received the distinguished UN medal awards and noted that this is a form of appreciation by the United Nations for their selfless act and courage to maintain stability in the area. He encouraged the battalion to keep up the good work and to provide full support to the UN mandate.
The deployment of Philippine troops in the Golan, especially amidst the 2011 Arab spring, is a challenge and a test to their courage and endurance. It is noteworthy that, since the raising of the Philippine flag in October 2009 signaling the formal assumption to duty, the troops have maintained the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in the performance of their responsibility in their areas of operation.
The Philippines is not new in peacekeeping operations. Despite its limited resources, the Philippines steadfastly maintains its commitments to the UN as one of its founding members. The country has sent peacekeeping troops, dating back in the 1950's, particularly in Korea, Congo, Afghanistan, Burundi, Cambodia, Cote d' Ivoire, Darfur, Georgia, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Kashmir, Kosovo, Nepal, Sudan and Timor Leste. -end-