Filipino peacekeepers leave for Haiti duty

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Filipino soldiers are sworn in as UN peacekeepers during a send-off ceremony at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Monday. The peacekeepers will provide perimeter security to the force headquarters of the UN Mission to Haiti. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

After the repatriation of the 344-man Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) contingent to the Golan Heights, another  group of Filipino peacekeepers on Monday left for Haiti as part of the country’s commitment  to the United Nations stabilization mission.

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Lt. Col Ramon Zagala, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office,  said the 18th AFP contingent to  Haiti is composed of  157 personnel from the Philippine Navy and  Marines, including  four woman officers.

According to Zagala, the fresh batch of Filipino peacekeepers would  replace the 17th Contingent, headed by Capt. Luzviminda Camacho, the first female contingent commander, which was deployed on October 29, 2013.

Haiti has suffered political unrest over the past decades   and a devastating earthquake  in 2010.

The Filipino  contingent will be tasked to provide perimeter security to the Force Headquarters of the UN Mission to Haiti, provide administrative and logistics clerical services   to the Force Headquarters, operate their military vehicles and provide VIP security to specified personalities by the Force Headquarters.

They are expected to   serve their tour in Haiti for 6 to 9 months.

The departure of the  AFP contingent to Haiti came just a day after the arrival in   the country of the last 84 remaining peacekeepers from the Golan Heights.

The 84 arrived at 11p.m. on Sunday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport 1 on board a Korean  Air plane. They were  welcomed arrival by AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang and his staff.

The AFP said  it would temporarily stop sending Filipino peacekeepers to the Golan Heights in light of an incident last month when Syrian rebels stormed the Filipinos’ position and demanded  their surrender.

The Filipino, however, stood their ground and  were able to successfully vacate their posts   in the dead of  night without  any casualties.

But despite what happened,  Catapang said  the AFP would remain a troop contributor for the UN and part of the UN standby force if ever, provided that the security force would be fully secured from interference of outside forces, like the  Syrian rebels.

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