WORRIED over the health and safety of Philippine troops, the Department of National Defense (DND) on Saturday ordered the pullout of the country’s military contingents in the Golan Heights and Liberia.
Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said Filipino peacekeepers deployed to the conflict areas in the Golan Heights and Liberia will be repatriated within the year.
Galvez added that the 331-strong 7th Filipinos serving as part of the United Nations Disengagement Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights are scheduled to end their tour of duty in October.
The Filipino troops were sent to Golan in three batches between September and December last year at a time when other UN member countries recalled their troops as the conflict in Syria intensified.
Meanwhile, about 115 Filipinos serving in Liberia will be repatriated “as soon as possible,” due to the health risk posed by the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa, a statement issued by the DND said.
“The Philippines prioritizes the safety and security of its troops, but remains committed to the peacekeeping missions of the United Nations,” the statement said.
Galvez said the Philippines will not send back its troops to the Golan Heights “unless the situation improves.”
He expressed confidence the pullout would not hurt the country’s standing with the UN, recalling that Filipino troops had remained in the Golan in 2013 even after Australian, Croatian and Japanese peacekeepers were withdrawn.
“The situation has become more volatile with increased security risk, hence the recommendation and subsequent approval for repatriation,” he said.
Galvez added that the Filipinos from Liberia will be quarantined for at least 21 days after arriving to ensure they are not infected.
The Golan Heights is a perennial potential flashpoint since it is being disputed by Israel and Syria.
More than 600 AFP personnel are currently deployed in nine mission areas around the world for various UN peacekeeping duties.
The AFP has also sent military observers in India and Pakistan, the UN Mission in Sudan, UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, and UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire, Ivory Coast.