Palace waiting for report on Golan Heights standoff

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has directed the Defense department to submit a comprehensive report on last week's incident in the Golan Heights that will serve as the basis for future deployments of Filipino peacekeepers, a Palace official said Tuesday.

The Filipino peacekeepers will complete their tour of duty in the Golan Heights until October, Secretary Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a press briefing.

"The Philippines is committed to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force or Undof," he said.

He said the President has instructed the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prepare a report on the events of last week as a guide for future policies and actions in similar situations.

The AFP has asked that the Undof commander in the Golan Heights be investigated for putting the lives of the Filipino peacekeepers in danger.

Coloma said this was the reason why the President sought for the report so that there would be a clearer perspective.

The President has expressed his satisfaction and has commended the Filipino peacekeepers who were courageous and determined in the face of the Syrian rebel attack, Coloma said.

Syrian rebels harassed camps manned by Filipino soldiers in the Golan Heights, demanding they surrender their weapons. The soldiers however refused, resulting in a standoff.

The Filipino soldiers eventually escaped following several hours of gunfight and have since been transferred to a safe location.

Asked when the government could come up with a revised system of deploying Filipino peacekeepers, Coloma said it will be an ongoing study, considering that there is already an announced policy decision to complete the current tour of duty.

He said the policy is the same for Filipino peacekeepers deployed in Liberia -- to complete the engagements based on the country's commitment to the United Nations.

Filipino peacekeepers in Liberia will also complete their tour of duty next month, he said.

Concerns over the safety of the Filipino peacekeepers have been growing due to the changing security landscape overseas as well as the spread of diseases, such as the Ebola virus, that pose health risks to them. (SDR/Sunnex)


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