Filipino Peacekeepers Promised Safety, Will Stay in Golan

MANILA (Reuters) -

The Philippines will likely keep its peacekeeping forces in the  Golan Heights for six more months after securing U.N. assurances for the safety of its 342 soldiers in the ceasefire zone, Manila’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Albert del Rosario said Manila was satisfied with action taken by the United Nations to keep Filipino peacekeepers safe with promises to provide protective equipment and weapons, including armored vehicles.

“On that basis, the likelihood is we will continue beyond August 11,” del Rosario said, referring to the deadline set by the Philippines plan to withdraw the troops in the absence of U.N. guarantees.

He said he would recommend to President Benigno Aquino to keep the troops in the Golan Heights for another six months.

Peacekeepers have been caught in the middle of fighting between Syrian troops and rebels in the area of separation. About 20 Filipino soldiers were taken captive twice this year.

Del Rosario said the United Nations had promised to raise the total number of peacekeepers to 1,250 by October to make up for the withdrawal of troops from Austria, Croatia and Japan on grounds of rising violence.

Del Rosario said a U.N. Security Council resolution allocated $8 million to enhance security.