RP deploys 336 troops to Golan Heights in Syria, military observers to Kashmir

June 23, 2009 8:10 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, June 23 — The Philippines will be sending 336 troops to join the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights in Syria in September, its biggest overseas deployment in almost a decade, the Philippine mission to the United Nations said.

The composite battalion of military and police officers will serve with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), according to Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Hilario G. Davide Jr.

“In our own little way, we would help keep the peace in that part of the Middle East,” Davide said, noting the excellent relations the Philippines enjoys with both Israel and Syria.

It would be the first time the Philippines is deploying a sizeable peacekeeping contingent since 2001, when over 600 personnel were deployed to support the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Davide also said that Filipino military observers will be dispatched to Kashmir in support of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which is supervising a ceasefire in the contested state of Jannu and Kashmir.

The two deployments are being carried out under the UN Standby Arrangement System (UNSAS) that the Philippines formally entered into last October during the visit to Manila of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) invited the Philippines to send personnel.

UNDOF was established as part of diplomatic efforts to ease tensions that followed the 1973 Yom Kippur War that saw Israel successfully defended territory in the Golan Heights 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.

Davide said 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. These troops are presently stationed across the so-called area of separation.

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 Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said 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. (PNA)

DCT/GJB

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