PH sets conditions for continued Golan Heights deployment

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Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino is willing to extend the deployment of Filipino peacekeepers in the conflict-stricken Golan Heights if the United Nations agrees to certain conditions regarding the safety of the Filipino soldiers, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Saturday.

Del Rosario said the President was open to maintaining the country’s troops in the volatile ceasefire zone between Syria and Israel beyond the scheduled troop rotation on August 11 if safety and security conditions improve.

At least 340 Filipino peacekeepers are detailed to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) at the ceasefire zone, which has been wracked by a spillover of violence between Syrian government and rebel forces.

“We are submitting our conditionalities [to the United Nations] for enhancing safety and security of Philippine peacekeepers in UNDOF,” Del Rosario told the Inquirer. “If these are approved, and the risk exposure does not exceed tolerable limits, the President has agreed for our people to remain beyond August 11 with a reassessment thereafter to be made every six months.”

Del Rosario earlier proposed to Aquino the withdrawal of the Philippine contingent, currently UNDOF’s biggest, following  two separate abductions of Filipino “Blue Helmets”—21 in March and four in May— and the wounding of one during heavy fighting among Syrians in June.

The Philippines sent an assessment team to the Golan last month to determine if safety and security conditions in the area were improving.

The United Nations and the United States have asked the Philippines to rethink its pullout plan, saying the departure of another contingent would leave a vacuum and “create maximum volatility” on the Golan.

Apart from the Philippines, only India maintains a large presence of nearly 200 peacekeepers in the area, and it shares the Philippines’ security concerns.

Austria is in the process of pulling out its troops while Japan and Croatia have already withdrawn. Fiji has committed to send some 500 peacekeepers to the Golan to reinforce the already undermanned UNDOF.

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  • Marcial Abila

    Pwede ba del rosario wag kana mag ingles tagalugin mo nalang para d ka pinagtatawan gayahin mo pangulo natin tagalog palagi ginagamit sa mga talumpati kaya malinaw anu ibig sabihin

    • Gyrating Monkey

      He is the “foreign secretary” so his audience is not only Filipinos, like what this case is.

  • disqusted0fu

    Pnoy is asking for security and safety for the ones who are supposed to give security and safety. Better yet, he should just focus on how to provide security and safety to the Filipinos in the PH, especially the poor and the victims of calamities.

    • Gyrating Monkey

      FYI – they are UN observers, observing that both Israel and Syria stick to their sides of the disputed border, that Israel does not use the advantage of Golan’s strategic position and that Syria does not try to take it back. They are not a UN security force. That’s why they are lightly armed, the rules of engagement are more strict. The changed conditions brought about by the Syrian civil war now means that there are forces, like those who kidnapped our observers twice already that are neither recognized state entities or belligerent. Which in turn complicates a lot of things. If the observers are allowed to engage in defensive hostile actions, there must be certain conditions met to be able to decide on a proper course of action. It should not seem to look like an Israeli offensive, because if our forces do fight back, the Syrian side might twist it to become an Israeli instigated incident. Di iyan lahat tungkol sa tapang. Pangalawa, ang pagpapahiram ng ilang sa mga tauhan natin sa sandatahang lakas ay bilang kabayaran na rin sa ating pagiging ka-miembro ng club na UN. Yes bro….may membership fee.

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