PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti- The United Nations (UN) on Wednesday paid tribute to Filipino peacekeepers serving here, saying their continued presence is needed to help ensure stability in this impoverished Caribbean country.

Ambassador Hedi Annabi, special representative of the Secretary General and head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) led UN officials in recognizing the important role played by members of the 10th Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent under Army Lieutenant Colonel Lope Dagoy by presenting them with UN medals in ceremonies in this capital city.

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"On behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, it is my honor to present you with the United Nations peacekeeping medal, in recognition of your good work in the service of international peace and security,"

Annabi said before presenting the medals to the 155-member Philippine contingent, "I would like to thank you for having helped us bring more stability to Haiti and would like to congratulate you on your dedication and commitment to your tasks. I would also like to thank the Government of the Philippines, its armed forces and its population for their support to MINUSTAH and other peacekeeping operations around the world."

Also present in the ceremonies were Major General Ricardo Toro, Acting MINUSTAH force commander; Chief Superintendent Douglas Coates, Acting MINUSTAH police commissioner; and Papal Nuncio Monsignor Bernardito Auza.

First Secretary Elmer G. Cato and Attache Jose Jacinto Morales of the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York represented the Philippine Government.

In his remarks, Annabi cited the critical role being played by Filipino peacekeepers who were first deployed here in 2005 to help prevent the country from plunging into chaos. More than 1,500 Filipino troops have served here since they are members of the Force Headquarters Security Unit of MINUSTAH.

"You have provided valuable assistance to the Mission, by ensuring the security of MINUSTAH Headquarters, providing VIP escorts and clerical support services. In a city where demonstrations are taking place almost every day and can easily turn violent, your security operations are critical to ensure the smooth functioning of Mission Headquarters, and I am deeply grateful for that," Annabi told the Filipino peacekeepers.

Annabi also made special mention of the six humanitarian assistance projects undertaken by the 10th Philippine Contingent under Dagoy, who was also responsible for initiating regular dialogues with the local population to explain MINUSTAH's mandate.

"Such gestures of humanity exemplify the values of solidarity and commitment to service that lie at the core of United Nations peacekeeping," Annabi said.

"Your performance reflects well upon MINUSTAH, and upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines."

"We will continue to count on the Philippines to assist us in discharging our mandated tasks, especially in the coming months, when we expect heightened tensions, related to the legislative elections, and to the enduring hardship experienced by the Haitian people in their daily lives," he added.

The Philippines is in the list of the top 30 member-states of the United Nations that have contributed troops and police officers in support of peacekeeping operations. In addition to Haiti, Filipino peacekeepers are also serving in Afghanistan, Cote d' Ivoire, Darfur, Golan Heights, Kashmir, Liberia, Sudan, and Timor-Leste. (Philippine Mission to the United Nations)