May 9, 2013 (TSR) – The Philippine Government condemns in the strongest possible terms the abduction of four Filipino peacekeepers under the United Nations (UN) Command in the Golan Heights and calls on all parties concerned to effect the immediate and safe release of the Filipino UN peacekeepers.
The Philippines underscores that the apprehension and illegal detention of peacekeepers are gross violations of international law.
The official statement continues, “The Filipino peacekeepers operate under the UN flag and accordingly, these Filipinos are international personnel clothed with immunity and mantle of protection similar to diplomatic agents and personnel. These rights are inviolable and their transgression is punishable under international law.”
The Philippines are part of the impartial UNDOF and its mandate to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria.
“As such, the respect of freedom of movement and safety and security of peacekeepers must be extended to UNDOF peacekeepers – and, indeed, to all UN peacekeeping missions – consistent with commitments and obligations under international law”, the Philippine government stresses.
As it continues to work closely with partners and stakeholders on this matter, the Philippines calls on the Security Council to exert all efforts and use its influence for the early and safe release of the Filipino peacekeepers and ensure that the freedom of movement and safety and security of peacekeepers in all UN peacekeeping missions are observed.
The Philippine government realized that the incident “unmasked the real agenda of the Syrian rebels in their quest to seize power in Syria.”
In fact, Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, senior Philippine administration lawmaker, said the US and the European Union should reconsider providing assistance to the Syrian rebels following their taking hostage the Filipino peacekeepers as this was “pure blackmail by the rebels against the UN”.
He asked why the rebels, who have been getting humanitarian and military assistance from the US and the EU, would hold hostage members of the neutral UN peacekeeping force sent to protect the Syrian people from the onslaught of the Syrian army.
Calling all fellow Filipinos: Come home
The Philippine Government has brought more than 4,000 Filipinos in Syria to safety since violence broke out in the country in March 2011.
Official data from the Philippine Embassy in Damascus puts the number of repatriated Filipinos at 4,131.
The number includes 120 Filipinos who will be turned over by the Embassy in Damascus to the Philippine Embassy in Beirut today. Forty (40) of them will take a Qatar Airways flight with a stopover in Doha, Qatar while the remaining 80 repatriates will take a flight for Dubai, United Arab Emirates where they will be further divided into two groups for their onward flights to Manila.
The first batch of 40 repatriates are scheduled to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal I today, May 09 at 04:35 p.m. on board Qatar Airways flight QR 646. The rest will arrive at NAIA Terminal I on the same day in groups of 40 via Emirates Airlines flights EK 332 at 03:55 p.m. and EK 334 at 09:55 p.m.
The Philippine Government’s efforts to bring the 3,000 or so remaining Filipinos in Syria are still in full swing as the security situation in the country continues to deteriorate.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) continues to appeal to all Filipinos who are still in Syria to seek immediate repatriation. For assistance they may call the Embassy at 963-11-6132626, +963968955057, +963934957926, +963992264145, +963968953340, or +963958903893.