Philippines seeks UN protection for peacekeepers

The Philippines has asked the United Nations to provide more protection to its peacekeeping forces, Manila said Wednesday after announcing its troops would remain in the Golan Heights after a recent abduction.

The foreign department said the Philippines' permanent representative to the UN wrote to the UN Security Council to express Manila's "grave concern" over the March 6-9 detention of 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers.

The Philippines' UN representative, Libran Cabactulan, also urged the council to exert its influence on all parties in the Syrian conflict to ensure the peacekeepers' freedom of movement, a foreign department statement said.

"The members of the Council... wield considerable influence over the parties in the region. Our communication to the Security Council is meant to highlight this vital role of the Security Council," Cabactulan added.

About 300 Filipinos serve in the UN Disengagement Observer Force, which has been in the Golan Heights since 1974, monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel.

Twenty-one of the Filipinos were held for three days earlier in the month by Syrian rebels who demanded a pullback by Syrian government forces in the area. The unit was later freed unharmed.

The Philippine government announced last week that it would keep its UN contingent in the Golan Heights following the abductions.

The UNDOF force of fewer than 1,000 troops also comprises troops from Austria and India.

Previously the force included soldiers from Canada, Japan and Croatia.