Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday that the United Nations and the United States have appealed to the Philippines not to withdraw its peacekeeping troops in Golan Heights as this may further escalate tension in the volatile region. Manila deployed a team to Golan Heights last weekend to assess the safety of its 343 peacekeepers, who are part of the U.N. mission monitoring the armistice line in Golan Heights between Syria and Israel following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, were seized by rebels.
Some 25 Filipino peacekeeping troops were seized in two separate occasions by rebels in March and May, prompting the Philippine government to re-assess its troop presence there.
“They’re saying that the situation, if that occurs, will create maximum volatility in the area,” Del Rosario.
Del Rosario said this was transported to him twice by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who called him to convince the Philippines to stay, saying the withdrawal of Philippine peacekeepers amid Austria’s announcement of a pullout in the coming weeks “would create a vacuum in the Golan Heights.” The Philippines has sought extra protection for its peacekeepers from the U.N. and pending its response to its request, Del Rosario said the Pinoy troops will stay in Golan Heights at least until August 3.
Del Rosario said the report of the assessment team, which the DFA hopes to receive by Friday, will also guide the President’s decision if the Philippines will pull out by Aug. 3 or continue beyond that.
“The President is aware of the possibility of maximum volatility if we leave and therefore we consider subject to acceptance to our conditionalities we would stay until Aug 3rd,” Del Rosario said. The Philippines has a total of 742 police, military and jail personnel in eight U.N. peacekeeping operations, namely Haiti, Liberia, South Sudan, Cote d’ Ivoire, the disputed territory of Abyei between Sudan and South Sudan, the India-Pakistan border and Afghanistan.