CAMP FAOUAR, Syria— The Philippines is now the 24th largest contributor of peacekeeping forces to the United Nations, with a total of 1,062 Filipino military and police personnel deployed overseas as of the end of January.
Alberto G. Romulo, Foreign Affairs secretary and chair of the Inter-Agency Council on UN Peacekeeping Operations, on Friday said the figure represents a 40% jump in the number of peacekeepers serving overseas compared to the total Philippine peacekeeping deployments in 2009.
At the medal parade ceremonies for Filipino peacekeepers serving with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) stationed at the Golan, Romulo led dignitaries in pinning UN service medals on the 342 Filipino peacekeepers under Army Col. Milfredo Melegrito.
Romulo’s visit was the first by a Secretary of Foreign Affairs to a peacekeeping mission area. It came five months after the Philippines first deployed troops to support UNDOF.
Honored during the medal parade ceremonies were Maj. Gen. Natalio C. Ecarma III, UNDOF head of mission and force commander, and Wilfredo Cuyugan, Philippine ambassador to Damascus.
Ecarma, former deputy commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps, formally assumed command of UNDOF on March 1, replacing Austrian Maj. Gen. Wolfgang Jilke.
He is the first Filipino to be appointed head of a UN peacekeeping mission and the second to be named commander of a UN peacekeeping force.
“His (Ecarma’s) appointment is indeed a great honor for the Philippines and the Filipino people and a clear proof that Philippine participation in peacekeeping operations has gone a long way,” Romulo said.
The Foreign Affairs secretary also extolled the men and women of the 1st Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent in the Golan, saying their presence helps keep the peace in the Middle East.
“We Filipinos are friends to all and it is my hope that the excellent relationship that the Philippines has nurtured over the years with the countries of the region would help make your job here in UNDOF easier,” Romulo said.