High-ranking officials of the United Nations (UN) are in Manila to discuss the country’s participation in the agency’s peacekeeping operations in strife-torn areas around the world.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, military adviser of the UN Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Colonel Sergio Filippi, chief of Current Military Operations of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO), arrived on June 5.
They met with representatives from the Foreign Affairs, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
They were received by Jesus Domingo, Foreign Affairs assistant secretary for the Office of the United Nations and other International Organizations.
Gaye and Filippi were invited to the Philippines so they can address the meeting of the National Council for UN Peace Operations (NCUNPO). It is a body comprised of the departments of Foreign Affairs, National Defense and Interior and Local Government.
The NCUNPO is tasked to oversee the Philippines’ participation in the UN peacekeeping efforts.
“I thank the Philippines for continuing to honor its commitment to peacekeeping. We always work towards improving relations between the UN DPKO and troop-contributing countries. We therefore count this opportunity to meet with the Philippines as an extremely important one,” Gaye said.
He commended the country for its presence in the UN peacekeeping missions despite the threat posed to its nationals, particularly the abduction of two groups of Filipinos in separate occasions at the Golan Heights.
Two groups of Filipino peacekeepers were abducted from the Golan Heights on March 6 to 9 and on May 7 to 12.
Domingo thanked Gaye and Filippi for securing the release of the Filipinos from their Syrian abductors. The Filipinos were detained amid accusations that the UN peacekeepers were more partial to the Israelis than to the Syrians.
The abductors also asked for the withdrawal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops from certain villages.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario had recommended to Malacanang the pullout of Filipino troops from the Golan Heights because of heightened risk there following the two separate abductions.
Malacanang has yet to take action to the recommendation.
The Philippines has deployed a total of 843 troops 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.
Filipino peacekeepers have been in the ceasefire zone of the Golan Heights for more than three years.
BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON