MANILA - Senator Imee Marcos on Monday expressed confidence the 20-member Philippine National Police-United Nations contingent would boost peacekeeping efforts in the war-torn African country of South Sudan.

Marcos, who led the PNP’s flag-raising and send-off ceremony for the 20-member contingent to the UN Mission in South Sudan, in Camp Crame, Quezon City, said she is confident that South Sudan would be in good hands with the Filipino team extending humanitarian work in the country.

The peacekeeping team will be composed of 13 policewomen and seven policemen.

"Alam natin na hirap na hirap ang pinakabatang bayan sa buong mundo, ang (We know that the youngest country in the world is having a hard time) South Sudan. But they will certainly be in good hands of the Philippine National Police extending the humanitarian work in this war-torn and still problematic country," Marcos said.

"Hindi matatawaran ang inyong tapang sa pagsuong sa panganib at ang inyong malasakit sa kapwa maging Pilipino man o anumang lahi. Ipinagmamalaki namin kayo (your courage in facing danger and your concern for fellow Filipinos or any race is incomparabale. We are proud of you)," she said.

Aside from South Sudan, Marcos also applauded all the men and women who had earlier served as Philippine Peacekeeping contingents in the Middle East, South Korea, Congo, Cambodia, East Timor, Golan Heights, South Sudan, Kosovo, and Georgia.

She added that even her father, then former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., sent a peacekeeping team to do humanitarian work during the Vietnam war.

"And so that begins the extraordinary effort of Filipino soldiers and policemen in humanitarian and peacekeeping services. Filipino Peacekeepers have been deployed everywhere. From various units of the PNP including members from other uniformed services such as the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines], the Coast Guard, BJMP [Bureau of Jail Management and Penology], and the Bureau of Fire Protection," Marcos said.

The senator also emphasized that sending peacekeeping contingents to other countries will not only preserve national security but will also promote and attain economic security and Filipinos' rights and welfare overseas.

A civil war erupted in South Sudan shortly after declaring independence from Sudan in 2011.

Even though both parties have signed a peace agreement four years ago, the transitional government is having a hard time unifying various military factions, according to the UN.

Under Resolution 2625 series of 2022, the UN Security Council determined that the situation in South Sudan continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region.

The Council extended the United Nations Mission in South Sudan mandate until March 15, 2023, to continue its three-year strategic vision of preventing a return to civil war, building durable peace, and supporting inclusive, accountable governance, and free, fair, and peaceful elections in accordance with the Revitalized Peace Agreement.

Big honor

Meanwhile, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said it is an honor for the country’s police force to engage in promoting good governance and human rights protection in other parts of the world.

"I warmly congratulate our brave colleagues assigned to serve in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan to continue to maintain peace and order in that country. It truly reflects the wisdom of our dear President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr., for he commanded us to always manifest moral principles and integrity when serving the people of this country and the world regardless of race, gender, economic status, political affiliation, religious belief, and the like." Azurin said in his speech during the send-off rites.

In a press briefing at Camp Crame, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said more female police officers were deployed to help the African country deal with issues related to women and children.

“This is also the first time that most of our contingent is composed of female officers and in fact among the UN member nations, the Philippines was able to send the most women because we were the only ones who were able to provide their requirements because that is exactly the request of (South) Sudan to have more women because there are issues and concerns with women and children and that would require the presence of our female police officers. We are happy because as Senator Imee (Marcos) said, this is a testimony that our policewomen can be at par with their male counterparts, particularly in terms of peacekeeping police functions,” she added. (with Anne Lorraine Bustamante and Irish Marie Caidoy-trainees/PNA)