The Philippines said on Wednesday it intends to keep its 340 soldiers in the Golan Heights as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, amid improved security for the troops.
With the U.N. close to fulfilling the conditions on upgrading safety, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, said that Filipino soldiers will be allowed to stay beyond August 11, according to AFP news agency.“The conditions look fine to me,” del Rosario told AFP, adding he had recommended to President Benigno Aquino that they stay for at least another six-month mission.“I still have to go back to the president for his blessing but I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Following the kidnapping of two groups of Filipino troops, the Philippines said in May that it was considering withdrawing from the Golan Heights.
Both groups were released unharmed, but the wounding of another Filipino soldier from shelling in June added to security concerns.
As one of the major contributors to the U.N. Golan force, with other countries having pulled out their contingents as violence from the Syrian civil war increases, the Philippine peacekeeping force is key. However, Fiji has emerged in recent months as a saviour for the peacekeeping force, agreeing to deploy 562 soldiers.
The three conditions set by the Phillipines was that the total peacekeeping force return to its regular strength of 1,250 soldiers, the provision of extra military equipment for soldiers, and the option for the Philippines to review the mission every six months.
Del Rosario said he was confident the numbers in the peacekeeping force would climb to 1,250 by October.