MANILA, Philippines – Despite the much-publicized disagreement between Filipino peacekeepers and United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander Lt. Gen. Iqbal Sing Singha, the UN has sent official letter of gratitude to the Philippine government and President Benigno Aquino III.
According to an ABS-CBN report, the letter of compliment came from the UN Secretariat office thanking the Philippines for its contribution to the peacekeeping efforts in Golan Heights.
“The Secretariat wishes to express its gratitude to the government of the Republic of the Philippines for its contribution to UNDOF. The government of the Philippines is aware that the security and operations of situation in the area of separation has necessitated the relocation of a number of mission personnel to the Alpha side,” the letter said as read by President Aquino III who is currently in Europe for an official visit.
UNDOF commander Singha has earlier criticized Filipino troops over what is now dubbed as the “greatest escape” after the soldiers defied his order to lay down arms and surrender to Syrian rebels who surrounded them in Golan Heights.
Singha called the Filipino UN peacekeepers’ defiance as “unprofessional” and “an act of cowardice.” Brigadier General Pio Catapang, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, however, defended his soldiers saying he advised them to defy the order since it is a violation of their regulation not to surrender the firearms.
Apparently, the disagreement did not stop the United Nations to, at least, acknowledge the Filipino blue helmets’ contributions and sacrifice in the war-torn Golan Heights.
The letter from the UN Secretariat further said UNDOF is not expected to deploy back troops to the “Bravo side”, understood to be referring to the Golan Heights, anytime soon, thus rendering the Filipino troops ‘non-operational.”
The UN added it will arrange the repatriation of the 245 Filipino peacekeepers currently accommodated at an Israeli camp.
On Friday, 244 Filipino UN peacekeepers arrived home from Israel after the Philippine government decided to pull them out of Golan Heights two weeks ahead of schedule. About 85 more is expected to fly back to the country on Sunday.
President Aquino said he is thankful and relieved upon receiving the letter of acknowledgement sent by UN Assistant Secretary General Edmund Mullet. (Click here to read more)