Monday, August 25, 2014

PHL peacekeeping contingent in Liberia to be quarantined

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): PHL peacekeeping contingent in Liberia to be quarantined
To ensure that they are not contaminated with the deadly Ebola virus which is spreading havoc in Western Africa, the 115-strong Filipino peacekeepers serving in Liberia will be quarantined first before their scheduled return to the country this October.

This will last around 21 days, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Monday.

The procedure will be repeated again once these troops arrived in the country.

However, he declined to comment on how long these soldiers will be quarantined upon arrival and other specifics, adding that the matter is under the purview of the Department of Health.

The DND earlier announced the Filipino military contingent in Liberia will be pulled due to the Ebola outbreak while the 331-strong force in Golan Heights will be pulled out due to the worsening security situation in Syria.

However, DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said the Philippines is amenable to the redeployment of Filipino troops should the situation stabilize.

"We are committed to our peacekeeping commitment (to the UN) but if the threat level there goes beyond a certain level, the Philippines can disengage," he added.

Galvez said that the Philippines cannot be faulted for repatriating its troops especially in the Golan Heights as Japan, Croatia, and Austria already pulled out its forces there in 2013 when the threat level went up.

He said it is important to note that the Philippines has sustained its contingent in UNDOF amidst the withdrawal of other troop-contributing countries as the conflict in Syria intensified in 2013.

"When shooting started in Syria, we told the United Nations we can stay there as long as our troops are given adequate force protection equipment like bullet-proofed vests and armored personnel carriers to ensure their protection," he said.

"However, the situation there now is that our forces there are getting frequently caught in the crossfires and sometimes, our vehicles are being hit by shrapnel from shells fired by the combatants. The situation is getting more volatile to the point that our soldiers could get killed there, and we can tell the UN that the situation is now beyond our threat level," the DND spokesperson stressed.

The DND had earlier said that "amidst the volatile security environment in the Middle East and North African region, the Philippines prioritizes the safety and security of its troops, but remains committed to the peacekeeping missions of the United Nations."

"Meanwhile, in light of the rising health risk posed by the outbreak of Ebola virus in Africa, the Filipino troops deployed to the UN Mission in Liberia will also be repatriated as soon as possible," Galvez said.

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