LAGUINDINGAN, Misamis Oriental) President Benigno S. Aquino III said there is an ongoing review of the country’s United Nations (UN) missions around the world aimed at determining if there’s a need for the Philippines to retain those missions considering the risk they posed to Filipino peacekeepers.
During an interview with the media after his final inspection of the new airport here, the President said he ordered an evaluation of all the Philippine missions overseas following the first Golan Heights issue.
The latest incident is a Filipino peacekeeper being injured by a mortar round exploding in their camp in Golan Heights between the Israeli-Syria border.
“I have asked a review of all of these engagements. For instance, I’m very concerned with two observers from the Philippines in an area—I think it’s in the South Sudan,” he said.
South Sudan, the newest country in Africa, hosts two Filipinos. The President said he wondered how two Filipinos personnel could respond to an emergency considering the very small number and their inaccessibility to government help.
The Philippines doesn’t have an embassy in Sudan or South Sudan, and the closest embassy is located in Egypt, according to the President.
The Philippines also has a very small contingent—two personnel in Jammu-Kashmir in India. The Indian government battles Muslim separatists in Jammu-Kashmir.
“So, again, dadalawang tao na naman. So ano ba ang ginagawa nitong dalawang tao doon? Ano ba ang mangyayari sa kanila kung saka-sakaling merong hostilities sa mga lugar na ito? Sino ba ang directly in-charge sa kanila, which embassy?” he asked.
There are also personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) deployed in Haiti to assist the Caribbean country build its own penal system, the President said.
After the first Golan Heights incident, he said he asked all concerned agencies to make an assessment of all the Philippine missions abroad.
The review will involve determining the primary mission, the effectivity of carrying out the mission and knowing whether the risks are reasonable for the Filipino personnel to stay on those locations, the President said.
He said the Philippine’s engagement in the UN peacekeeping missions started in the 1960s and there is no new commitments under the President’s watch. Everything became routinary.
There are changing conditions on the ground particularly on how the UN and other interested states deal with the situation, the President said.
He said that among the major issues include whether UN personnel get better equipment, adopt different standard operating procedures or rules of engagement to enhance their capacity to safeguard themselves.