Palace assures commitment to UN peacekeeping duties

Posted at 08/31/14 2:54 PM

MANILA - The Philippines assured the United Nations that it will not turn its back on its commitment to secure and ensure peace in Golan Heights and other areas in the Middle East.

In an interview with radio dzRB, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said: “"It is in the national interest to prioritize the safety of our peacekeepers while not turning our back on our commitment to international security, particularly in Golan Heights and in the Middle East.”

This comes on the heels of news that all 75 soldiers serving as peacekeepers in the Golan Heights managed to slip away from Syrian rebels, who had demanded that they surrender their firearms. The standoff started Thursday in two camps.

Troops in position 69 safely left the area later. The Syrian rebels, who have links to the al Qaeda network, attacked Filipino peacekeepers in position 68. Not one Filipino soldier was hurt and the Armed Forces of the Philippines officials called it “the greatest escape.”

The peacekeepers have already repositioned at Camp Ziouani.

Coloma said President Benigno Aquino III has closely monitored the developments until the soldiers’ repositioning at Camp Ziouani.

The pullout of government troops will proceed in October, as earlier planned.

“That was the last declaration. We will check if there are other considerations,” Coloma said.

Several Filipinos in the strife-torn Golan Heights have been abducted in the past, forcing Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to recommend to Aquino the withdrawal of the troops.

Del Rosario later dropped his recommendation when the United Nations, where the peacekeepers are employed, promised that they will be given ample security.

“In the case of Golan Heights, the UN has been aware over time that the Philippine government has been carefully assessing the evolving situation,” the DFA had said.

"The Philippines would like to thank other members of the United Nations Disengagement Force, particularly Syria, Israel, Qatar, and the United States, for their help and support," Coloma added.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines peacekeeping office is now contacting the family members of our peacekeepers to give them updates on their loved ones," he said.