MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines is not inclined to send another set of Filipino peacekeepers to Golan Heights following the attack of Syrian rebels, newly-confirmed AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr said Wednesday.
“I think we are not inclined to participate kung ganun na. I think it is up to the President (Benigno Aquino III) to decide kung ganun ang request ng UN (United Nations),” he told reporters after his confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.
Filipino peacekeepers were able to escape the Syrian rebels, who were holding several Fijian peacekeepers captive, following several days of tense standoff.
During the CA hearing, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez suggested that the Philippines send more troops to Golan Heights.
“I think we should increase the Filipino contingent there to be able to defend Golan Heights,” the lawmaker said.
Catapang did not respond during the hearing but told reporters after the hearing that he does not favor it.
“’Pag dinagdagan namin, magbabago na ‘yung sitwasyon. It will not be a peacekeeping operation; it will be peace enforcement. To secure peace, hindi na peacekeepers ‘yun, enforcement operations na ‘yun,” he said.
Catapang said the operation in Golan Heights is no longer peacekeeping but peace enforcement.
“Wala na po tayong papadala dun. What we are telling the UN is we have a standby force available but not in the Golan Heights kasi iba na ‘yung peace operations na gagawin dun. It will be peace enforcement operations,” he reiterated.
He said in peace enforcement, the soldiers need to have more firearms to defend themselves against enemies who have mortars and other bigger firearms.
The Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights are set to be pulled out after their tour of duty in October. At present, 331 troops are serving in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
Israel captured Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war, and the countries technically remain at war. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation under a 1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974.
UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running 70 km from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan. There are 1,223 UNDOF peacekeepers from six countries. (MNS)