Aquino wants better protection for Filipino peacekeepers

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President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday called for a security meeting to assess the situation in Golan Heights and to decide if the Philippines should pull out its peacekeepers in the troubled region.

The move came after some countries pulled out their contingents from the United Nations force there.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has recommended the pullout of all 342 Filipinos, days after a Pinoy peacekeeper in Golan Heights was injured during fierce fighting between the Syrian armed forces and rebel forces there.

The President said the government is weighing the proposals with UN for the continued presence of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights.

“Maraming nagpu-pullout na bansa [There are a lot of countries pulling out],” Aquino said. “Matindi ang kaba na ‘pag nag-pullout ‘yung buong UN detachment or ‘yung UN forces diyan, wala nang buffer in between Israel and Syria [There is heightened fear that if the whole UN detachment or the UN forces there pull out, there will be no buffer between Israel and Syria],” Aquino said.

If that happens, the President said, “magdidikitan ‘yung dalawa closer to the boundary, at baka magkaroon ng flare up again of hostilities [The two forces will draw closer to the boundary and maybe there will be a flare-up of hostilities again.]”

Mr. Aquino, on one hand, wants some changes on the engagements rules to ensure the protection of the peacekeepers.

“Payag ba ang UN na dagdagan natin either ‘yong equipment, or baguhin ‘yong tinatawag na mga standard operating procedures doon para ma-enhance naman ‘yong seguridad ng ating mga puwersa? [Will they give our peacekeepers additional equipment or will they change their standard operating procedure and rules of engagement to enhance the safety of our peacekeepers?],” Aquino asked

“Kung walang magbabago sa mga kondisyones na ‘yon, baka undoable naman ‘yung misyon at kawawa ‘yong ating tropa kung malalagay lang sila sa gitna ng dalawang potensyal na magbungguan at hindi nila kayaning ipagtanggol ang sarili nila [If there will be no changes, this might be an undoable mission for our poor troops if they will be in the middle of two potentially clashing forces and they cannot defend themselves],” he added
The President said he will meet Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Cabinet Secretary Jose Almendras, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin, and the heads of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.

“‘Yung main question is [My main question is]: Is the mission doable or not?” Aquino said.

“We want to also help in enhancing the maintenance of relative peace within that area.

After an evaluation of each and every mission, then we will decide whether to continue that particular mission or not,” the President added

In March, 21 Filipino peacekeepers were taken captive by a rebel group which released them unharmed after four days. The same group, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, seized four more Filipino soldiers last month and released them five days later.

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