• Filipino peacekeepers staying in Golan Heights till August 11


    President Benigno Aquino 3rd has agreed to keep the 340 Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights until August 11, a Palace spokesman said on Friday.

    Edwin Lacierda said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario presented the recommendations on the peacekeepers’ deployment given by the Philippine assessment team to President Aquino on Thursday.

    ”Subject to meeting considerations which the Philippines has made to enhance the security and safety of our peacekeepers, the President has expressed the Philippines is prepared to continue its Undof [United
    Nations Disengagement Observer Force] participation. We already had the sad experience of having our peacekeepers abducted by some forces so, we are concerned,” he added.

    A Philippine presence in the disputed zone between Syria and Israel after August 11 would depend on whether the extra security was provided.

    The Philippines sent a team to assess the situation in the Golan Heights last month. The decision whether to pull out the Filipino troops area will depend on the recommendation of the team.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has earlier asked the Philippines to send additional personnel after Japan and Austria pulled out from the zone.

    It is not clear though if the President will deploy additional troops to Golan.

    Aquino said last month the Philippine troops needed anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, and protection against chemical warfare.

    Escalating violence against the Undof, which monitors a 1974 truce between Israel and Syria, has seen other countries pull out their troops.

    Austria, previously the top contributor, will withdraw its 377 soldiers by the end of this month, leaving a force of 530 from the Philippines and India.

    The brief abductions of 25 Filipino peacekeepers by Syrian rebels this year, as well as the wounding of a soldier at a Undof outpost, prompted del Rosario to recommend to Aquino that all the country’s troops be withdrawn.

    Ban said on Monday the UN was “seriously concerned” about its shrinking peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights and was seeking to recruit troops from Europe to fill the gap.

    With reports from Bernice Camille Banzon and AFP


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