— The latest batch of Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights were awarded United Nations medals in recognition of their valuable service in the name of peace and security in the region, the Department of Foreign Affairs said, according to a report published in the Philippine Daliy Inquirer here Saturday.
The peacekeepers — the fifth contingent — received their medals Thursday, barely three months after being deployed in the area under the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
The Golan Heights is a plateau that Israel now controls after capturing it from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.
“The awarding of medals to contingents in the Golan Heights is symbolic and a token of appreciation given by the UN to contingents for their contribution to the maintenance of peace and security in the region,” the DFA said in a statement.
The Philippine Contingent forms part of the peacekeeping force composed of troops coming from Austria, Canada, Croatia, India and Japan.
These troops 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.
Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Estella, commanding officer of the Philippine battalion, led his troops during the medal parade.
Philippine Ambassador to Israel Generoso Calonge and Major General Natalio Ecarma III, head of mission and UNDOF force commander, were special guests at the ceremony.
Contingent commanders of contributing states to UNDOF, liaison officers of the Israel Defense Force, and members of the Filipino community in Israel were also present during the parade, the DFA said.
In his speech, Estella congratulated the recipients of the UN medal and said it should serve as their inspiration to work even harder.
Estella urged his team to continue displaying world-class professionalism at all times.
He and his team assumed command in February 2012, and will finish their tour of duty by August 2012, the foreign office said.
Calonge, for his part, said their assignment was a rare duty and distinct privilege given to a unique few.
“Your presence here is a testament of our commitment to the UN as one of the founding nations of this international organization,” he 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 other forthcoming Philippine Contingents,” he added. — Agencies