By Bernice Camille V. Bauzon Reporter
The Philippines welcomed on Sunday the release of four Filipino peacekeepers who were abducted by Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights last week.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the peacekeepers were released on Sunday. They were immediately brought to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force’s (Undof) base in Golan Heights, Camp Ziuoani for medical checkup and stress debriefing, and were placed under the care of the Philippine batallion led by Lt. Col. Nollie Anquillano.
“The Philippine government and its people express deep appreciation to the United Nations and to all those who have exerted and contributed to the collective efforts to effect the safe release of all four [peacekeepers],” the DFA said.
The department reiterated that the “respect of freedom of movement and safety and security of peacekeepers” must be extended to all UN peacekeeping missions in the world.
It added that the security of the peacekeepers must be “consistent with commitments and obligations under international law.”
This was the second time Filipino peacekeepers were abducted by rebels in Syria. In March this year, 21 Filipinos were seized and released three days after. The rebels, who were protesting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, accused the peacekeepers of being partial to Israel.
The Philippines has deployed a total of 843 Filipinos in eight peacekeeping missions abroad. About 342 of them are in the Golan Heights, a disputed territory between Israel and Syria where a ceasefire has been monitored by the United Nations since 1974.