It was a historic day Thursday 17 September 2015. For the first time since World War II civilian was awarded the Operational Medal of the Norwegian Armed Forces. The recipients of the medal was a group of fifteen Filipino sailors, some represented by family members, who where conferred conferred the award in a ceremony held at the residence of Norwegian Ambassador Erik Førner on this historical weekday.
The award recognizes the diffucult role of the Philippine crew having during to a Syria mission. The Filipino group M/V Taiko was on a mission assisting the Norwegian government and the United Nations in removing chemical weapons from Syria from December 2013 to July 2014 on the behalf of UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
In his remarks, the Norwegian Ambassador Erik Førner envoy described the official recognition of second batch of awardees as “rare and historic” as the M/V Taiko crew members were the first civilians to be awarded the medal since the last world war.
The other crew members were honored in Bergen, Norway, in June.
Førner praised the courage of the Filipino seafarers.
“You made a difference. You proved that the international community can join forces and ensure that words are followed by action. And you demonstrated once again that excellence and professionalism are trademarks of the Filipino seafarer.” the Norwegian Ambassador said.
He also emphasized the contribution of the Filipino crew members to international peace and security.
The mission was carried out from December 2013 to July 2014 on behalf of the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Erik Førner said that the mission was of great importance for the population of Syria, the UN, and for international peace and security.
“The operation was completed under exceptionally challenging circumstances. Taiko was extremely exposed and vulnerable for the time it took to take on board the chemical weapons in Syria. Occasionally, the loading of the ship was accompanied by the sound of missiles and mortars. The 15 seafarers represented here today ensured that hundreds of tons of chemical weapons were transported from Syria and safely destroyed,” Ambassador Erik Førner said.
Six more Filipino seafarers of the MV Taiko were awarded the Operation Medal during a ceremony in Norway in June this year.
The maritime sector has been the cornerstone of Philppine-Norwegian bilateral relations. More than 25,000 Filipino seafarers are on board Norwegian-owned or controlled vessels at any time.