In celebration of the 2015 International Day of the United Nations Peacekeepers, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), in partnership with the Office of United Nations and International Organizations (UNIO) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), organized the Philippine Participation in UN Peacekeeping Operations, a special Mangrove Forum on International Relations, at the Bulwagang Apolinario Mabini, DFA, on 26 May 2015.
The guest speakers were Assistant Secretary Jesus R. S. Domingo, Secretary General of the National Council for United Nations Peace Operations; Major General Natalio C. Ecarma III (Ret), Department of National Defense Undersecretary for Defense Operations; and Police Director Wilfredo Franco, Directorate for Police Community Relations of the Philippine National Police.
The forum was organized to pay tribute to all UN peacekeepers who have served with dedication, courage, and high level of professionalism. It also mainstreamed the discourse on peacekeeping to the academe, civil society organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
In his presentation, Assistant Secretary Domingo provided an overview of Philippine participation in UN Peacekeeping Operations. He emphasized that the Philippines has been actively participating in peacekeeping operations and authorized missions of the United Nations since the height of the Korean War in 1950s because of its commitment toward international peace and security. He noted that participation in peacekeeping operations has not only helped the modernization and training development of the Armed Forces of the Philippines but has also increased the country’s credibility in the international arena.
Due to the emergence of threats endangering the safety and security of Philippine personnel, however, there have been current deployment restrictions such as the withdrawal from UN Operations in the Golan Heights (UNDOF), Liberia (UNMIL), and Cote d’ Ivoire (UNOCI). Nonetheless, Philippine peacekeeping forces are still present in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and Kashmir (UNMOGIP), totaling to 178 personnel deployed.
As Head of Mission and Concurrent Force Commander in Golan Heights (UNDOF) from 2010 to 2012, Usec. Ecarma said that peacekeeping missions have been met with various operational, internal, and external challenges. Elucidating in his experiences, he said that one major concern was the absence of a status of forces agreement and a clear set of rules of engagement, given the volatility of the situation peacekeeping forces were confronted with. However, Usec. Ecarma was able to resolve the situation by establishing a set of temporary rules of engagement that led the United Nations to issue a formal set of rules and guidelines for peacekeeping forces, especially for those stationed in UNDOF.
Usec. Ecarma and Police Director Wilfredo Franco both agreed that participating in peacekeeping operations is not an easy job. It is crucial that peacekeeping forces are able to earn the trust, respect, and confidence of civilians to carry out missions effectively. Likewise, peacekeeping forces must also have humility and sincerity to not only forge partnerships with local authorities toward lasting peace but also to be able to create capacity-building measures that will improve the lives of people. According to both speakers, peace will be attainable if both peacekeeping forces and host countries are willing to cooperate.
Officials and staff of the DFA, representatives from government agencies, and members of the diplomatic corps and the academe attended the forum.