OUR peacekeeping forces remain unfazed – whether by calamities or by any other threats. Sign of true gallantry and unquestionable dedication.

Just as when other people thought that the Haiti earthquake that claimed the lives of three Filipino soldiers in the Carribean state would make the government rethink stand on peacekeeping, the Philippines would even be playing bigger and better roles in keeping global peace.

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A dispatch from First Secretary Elmer Cato of the Philippine Mission to United Nations prove this resolve. Consul Cato, unknown to many, is also instrumental in coordinating and sending Filipino soldiers to strife-torn nations. Thus, his contribution for people of these states to somehow live in peace and in dignity, and to live in freedom from fear.

Cato, a true-blooded Capampangan, should somehow be given due commendation and honor by at least his fellow Cabalens for noble deeds that have not only local but global impact.

The Philippines will assume command of the 1,050-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights next month with the appointment of a decorated Marine general as the new force commander and head of mission, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo said Major Gen Natalio Ecarma III was formally appointed on Monday by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as the new Force Commander and Head of Mission for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights.

After being informed of Ecarma’s appointment by Philippine Ambassador to UN Hilario Davide, Romulo said: “The Philippines is honored to have been given the responsibility of helping oversee the peace in that part of the Middle East.”

Secretary Romulo said Major General Ecarma will replace Major General Wolfgang Jilke of Austria and will head what is considered to be one of the more established UN peacekeeping operation composed of 1,050 troops from Austria, Canada, Croatia, India, Japan and the Philippines; 75 military observers; 39 international staff; and 105 local civilian staff.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981, Major General Ecarma is presently the Deputy Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps and the Commander of Marine Forces Southern Philippines. He previously served as commander of the Presidential Guards Battalion; assistant chief of staff for operations of the Presidential Security Group; and commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade.

Major General Ecarma’s appointment came almost 10 years after Army Major General Jaime De Los Santos was named commander of UN peacekeeping forces in East Timor. It also came only three months after the Philippines deployed a 336-member infantry battalion to the Golan Heights to assume the peacekeeping responsibilities of Poland.

Established by the Security Council at the end of the Arab-Israeli War in 1974, UNDOF is tasked to maintain the ceasefire and supervise the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces and the so-called Areas of Separation and Limitation between the two parties.

The Philippines has a long peacekeeping tradition dating back to 1963 when it deployed a squadron from the Philippine Air Force to support UN operations in the Congo. At the end of 2009, the Philippines was 23rd in the United Nations list of top troop contributing countries with a total of 1,056 officers and personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police serving in Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Darfur, Golan Heights, Haiti, Kashmir, Liberia, Timor-Leste, and Sudan.

Condolences to the family of the late Jerome Yap, the civilian employee of United Nations who died in the temblor that hit Haiti. Jerome is a son of former Board Member Dr. Leticia Yap and a brother of Atty. Marnie Yap, former colleague in CDC who is now based in New York.