Philippines, Israel Strengthen Defense Ties

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                    Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon meet to
                   further strengthen Philippines-Israel defense cooperation (photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defense).

2 February 2014 Tel Aviv, State of Israel. Philippines-Israel relations marked an important milestone with the recent official visit of Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin to Israel. From 26 January to 1 February 2014, Secretary Gazmin, along with Ambassador Generoso D.G. Calonge and other top DND officials, including Undersecretary for Defense Affairs Natalio C. Ecarma III, Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Installations, and Logistics Patrick M. Velez and Acting Chief of Staff and DND Spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Reuben T. Galvez, met with Israeli officials from the Defense Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

Topping the visit's agenda was Secretary Gazmin's dialogue with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. The Secretary thanked the Minister for the assistance extended by Israel to the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda, saying that the mission, which included medical aid, saved many lives and helped the victims rebuild their homes and return to normalcy after the catastrophe. Meanwhile, Minister Ya'alon expressed his appreciation for the Philippines' role in saving the lives of Jews who were escaping persecution during the Holocaust, noting that this act has become an important part of the shared history between their countries. During the meeting, the two ministers also discussed areas where their countries can further strengthen and broaden their cooperation in defense affairs.

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     Left photo: Secretary Gazmin and Minister Ya'alon inspect the troops in formation during the Guard of Honor Ceremony.
       Right photo: Secretary Gazmin, Ambassador Calonge, Minister Ya'alon and other Philippine and Israeli officials stand
                                         at attention as the ceremonial band plays the Philippine National Anthem.
 

Secretary Gazmin also met with IDF Home Front Command Chief Major General Eyal Eizenberg. During the visit to the Home Front Command Headquarters, Acting Chief of Staff and DND Spokesperson Galvez briefed officers of the Command on developments concerning rehabilitation and restoration programs in the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda. A ceremony was also held for the Israeli team during which the Secretary of National Defense awarded medals and certificates to its officers and thanked the troops who spent almost two weeks in Bogo, Cebu, extending medical assistance and performing humanitarian operations.

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  Left photo: Secretary Gazmin meets with IDF Home Front Command Chief Major General Eyal Eizenberg (photo courtesy of
     IDF). Right photo: Secretary Gazmin and Ambassador Calonge with the rest of the Philippine delegation and IDF Home
                                                             Front Command Officers (photo courtesy of IDF).

Secretary Gazmin also visited the UNDOF base at Camp Ziouani where he met with Force Commander Major General Iqbal Singh Singha. He met the members of the 7th Philippine Contingent to the Golan Heights (PCGH) who are performing peacekeeping operations in the region and led the unveiling of the 7th PCGH Marker.

During his stay in Israel, Secretary Gazmin also took the opportunity to visit some important sites, including the Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The Secretary walked along the museum halls detailing the atrocities suffered by the Jews. The visit at Yad Vashem culminated in a memorial ceremony for the victims of the Holocaust. --END--

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    Left photo: Secretary Gazmin and Mrs. Rhodora H. Gazmin look at the 600 photos of Holocaust victims in Yad Vashem's
         Hall of Names. Right photo: Secretary Gazmin rekindles the Eternal Flame at the museum's Hall of Remembrance.