MANILA, Philippines—Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has called for greater protection for peacekeepers sent to UN-controlled zones as he personally expressed gratitude to the world body for securing the release of Filipino peacekeepers abducted on the Golan Heights almost a month ago.
Following a meeting with UN Under Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous at the UN Headquarters on Monday, Del Rosario said troops sent to UN Peacekeeping Missions around the world “deserve the full backing” of the world body.
“By the very nature of peacekeeping operations, our peacekeepers already serve under risky situations. They therefore deserve the full backing of the United Nations through the implementation of measures and procedures that will respond to existing and perceived threats,” Del Rosario said in a statement following his meeting at the UN.
“Our peacekeepers operate under the ambit of the UN with a mandate from the Security Council. These peacekeepers in all Missions including UNDOF deserve the full support of the international community, consistent with obligations and commitments under international law,” he said.
It was the first time for Del Rosario to personally bring up the matter with the UN since the abduction and eventual release of 21 Filipino peacekeepers posted at the UN Disengagement Observation Force (UNDOF) at the Golan Heights.
Syrian rebels seized the group of Philippine troops on March 6 as they demanded the pullout of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces from rebel-controlled Jamla region near the border of Syria and Israel. They were released three days later.
Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, the Philippines’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, brought up the same concern to the UN Security Council some two weeks ago.
“I am pleased to note that in my meeting today, this particular call of the Philippines has been met with positive action within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations under Under Secretary-General Ladsous,” Del Rosario said.
He also thanked the UN and the international community for working together to secure the release of the Filipino peacekeepers, saying “lessons learned from the incident should be used” to enhance security measures provided for troops in UN Peacekeeping missions.
Some 800 Filipinos are deployed to eight UN missions around the world, making the Philippines the 30th top contributor of personnel to UN peacekeeping missions. Of the total, some 343 Filipinos are assigned to the Golan Heights.