• DFA visits peacekeepers in Golan Heights


    A Philippine Assessment Mission to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) visited the Golan Heights on June 23 to 24 to evaluate the security of the Philippine contingent deployed there.

    In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the mission was composed of officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the department.

    The team is headed by Commodore Rafael Mariano and Major General Oscar Lactao.

    According to the statement, the officials met with Syrian officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, the Syrian Ministry of Defense, the Office of the Senior Syrian Arab Delegate and the UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria.

    The ongoing conflict in Syria has reached the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights, the department said.

    Currently, the 7th Philippine Contingent in Undof has 346 officers and enlisted men.

    Fourteen of them are serving as staff of Undof while the rest are deployed in the southern part of the area of operations.

    In August last year, DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario announced that the Philippines will not increase the number of troops in the Golan Heights although he recommended the retention of the current number of troops there.

    The Philippines set three conditionalities for the UN to meet before deciding on the retention of the troops.

    The conditions were: the UN is able to deploy Undof’s mandated full troop strength of 1,250 by October 2013, the provision of necessary equipment for the protection and defense of Filipino troops and other peacekeepers are procured by October 2013 and the Philippines be allowed to deploy troops using a six-month rotation.

    The Philippine government earlier mulled the pullout of its troops from the Golan Heights after the kidnappings last year, although the groups of Filipinos were shortly released.

    Japan, Austria and other contributing countries have withdrawn their troops from the area.

    Austria has the largest contingent of peacekeepers in the Golan Heights.

    Meanwhile, the DFA is awaiting confirmation of reports that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has stopped the issuance of work visas for a number of foreign domestic workers, including Filipinos.

    Charles Jose, DFA spokesman, said in a text message that the department was verifying these reports with the Philippine Embassy in Dubai.

    A source who refused to be identified said an official of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has confirmed these reports after flying immediately to Dubai last weekend to meet with the Philippine labor attache (LabAtt) there.

    A report in the UAE daily Gulf News indicated in June that less and less domestic workers from the Philippines are being deployed because of the new unified contract enacted by the Middle East country.

    The new policy said the UAE government will now verify the contracts of the domestic workers since such function does not fall under the duties of embassies.


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