From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 10): PH to end peace force in Golan Hts
The Philippines’ peace keeping mission in the Golan Heights under the United Nations will end in October this year and “after that, we will no longer rotate,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Tuesday.
“Our peace keepers will just finish their tour of duty,” Del Rosario said. “It will be our last contingent for Golan Heights.”
Del Rosario cited the escalating security threat in the war-torn area and said the Philippines will still ask for a review of the UN peacekeeping protocols as a result of the controversy over the escape of 40 Filipino troops, who refused to surrender to Syrian rebels and defied an order from a UN commander to lay down their arms.
The Philippines questioned the stand down order of Indian Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singha, head of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), at the height of the standoff. The Filipinos escaped from the rebels without surrendering their arms.
The Philippines has been sending troops for peacekeeping duties in the Golan Heights since 2009. Filipino troops will also be withdrawn from Liberia, where we have been sending contingents since 2003, because of threat of Ebola virus contamination.
Del Rosario, who will meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York next week, said the decision of the Filipinos not to surrender was on instructions of the Philippine government.
He said under the rules of engagement, which was approved by the UN in 2011, UNDOF military personnel “may exercise their inherent right to defend themselves.”
“All peace keepers have had to contend with the threat of (Syrian rebels), not envisioned in the original mandate and parameters of the UNDOF, and quite frankly, we all have to struggle to meet the demands of this challenge,” Del Rosario said.
Inorder to apprise the concerned CSOs on the status of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Chairman Mohagher Iqbal brought along with him BTC commissioners Raissa Jajurie, Ibrahim Ali and Melanio Ulama so that issues on women, Shariah and indigenous peoples, among others, can be satisfactorily addressed by commissioners who have expertise on these fields.
Commissioner Jajurie has extensive works in non-government organisations while Commissioner Ali is an expert in Shariah laws. Commissioner Ulama hails from the Indigenous Peoples and is a Timway (leader) of the Tedurays of Upi, Maguindanao.
The CSOs raised several issues and concerns such as probable constitutional challenge that the BBL might encounter, tight congressional schedules, and even the growing interest of other regions over the ministerial form of government that the Bangsamoro would take.
Sr. Arnold Maria Noel of Balay Rehabilitation said that advocates of federalism in the Bicol region are keenly observing the future formation of a ministerial government in the Bangsamoro.
The CSOs suggested a wide array of activities that need to be undertaken inorder to drumbeat popular support for the BBL which is expected to be submitted to Congress few days from now.
The organisers of the “Brunch with the BTC” were WE ACT 1325 (Women Engaged in Action on 1325), MPC (Mindanao People’s Caucus) and MCSOPP (Mindanao Civil Society Organizations Platform for Peace).
The participating CSOs included AKKAPKA (Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan), TUCP (Trade Union Congress of the Philippines), Balay Rehabilitation, GZOPI (Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute), PCID (Philippine Council for Islam & Democracy), International Alert, WPT or Women’s Peace Tables, Saligan Mindanao, YMPN (Young Moro Professionals Network) and IPON (International Peace Observers Network).