Army battalion sent to Golan Heights for peacekeeping
MANILA, Philippines — An Army battalion responsible for clearing southern Quezon province of communist New People’s Army rebels will leave starting this week as the latest Philippine contingent to the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the disputed territory of Golan Heights in the Middle East.
Members of the Army’s 76th Infantry Battalion headed by their commanding officer, Col. Cornelio Valencia, make up the core of the fourth Philippine contingent to Golan Heights, which straddles the borders of Israel and Syria.
Fiercely contested by Israel and Syria, Golan Heights is seen as a potential flashpoint in the Middle East and UN peacekeeping operations aim to prevent the outbreak of hostilities there.
Of the 49 officers and 278 enlisted personnel in the contingent, ten officers and 159 enlisted personnel were from the 76IB. There are six female officers and 22 female enlisted personnel. But all contingent members are from the Army.
“Our performance may be better compared to previous contingents because we come from one service (Army). This time there is no more adjustment,” Valencia told reporters after the official send off ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo Tuesday.
The three previous Philippine peacekeeping contingents to Golan Heights were composed of officers and soldiers from different services.
Valencia said they would leave for Golan Heights in three batches between May 6 and 15.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said the 76IB or the “Victrix” Battalion was chosen for the mission for its “remarkable achievements as one of the best performers among the infantry battalions.”
“One of their most significant accomplishments is clearing the southern part of Quezon of the New People’s Army Guerilla Front 42,” the AFP said in a statement.
The previous 370-strong peacekeeping contingent left for Golan Heights in November 2010.
The AFP first sent troops to Golan Heights as part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force in November 2009. The second batch left in April 2010.