Friday, June 24, 2011

Retired general recalled to continue as head of UN team

By Victor Reyes
Malaya, Friday, June 24, 2011

PRESIDENT Aquino has called back to active duty Maj. Gen. Natalio Ecarma III so he can continue serving as commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observers Force (UNDOF) and as head of the Philippine mission in Golan Heights.

The UN requested that his tour of duty be extended.

Ecarma, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981, reached the mandatory retirement age of 56 on June 3.

He was called back to active service as a "naval reservist," said 1Lt. Cherry Tindog, Marines information officer.

Tindog noted it is "very rare" that a retired officer is called back to active duty.

Ecarma became UNDOF commander and Philippine head of mission at the Golan Heights in March last year, vice Austrian Maj. Gen. Wolfgang Jilke.

UNDOF was established in 1974 to oversee the implementation of the disengagement or cease-fire agreement forged by the then warring Syrian and Israeli forces. UNDOF is composed of over a thousand troops Austria, Canada, Croatia, India, Japan and Philippines.

Tindog said that before Ecarma reached the age of 56, the UN asked the Philippine government if it could extend Ecarma’s tour.

Under the law, all military officers, except the AFP chief whose term can be extended, should retire at the age of 56.

Officers who retire from the service automatically become members of the reserve force, said Tindog.

Tindog also said the UN request for the Philippines to extend Ecarma’s tour of duty should be a viewed as a "national pride."

"It seemed that world leaders consider him as someone who should not be let go. He is seen as somebody who is the most fitting person to occupy the positions. This does not mean that there are no others from other countries who can occupy his post, but they (UN officials) insist on having him," she added.

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