Noy to lead heroes’ welcome for UN peacekeepers
Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - September 22, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino will lead the heroes’ welcome for members of the United Nations peacekeeping force recently pulled out from the Golan Heights in the Israel-Syria border two weeks ahead of schedule amid worsening security in the war-torn region.

Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, however, said the ceremony for the heroes’ welcome for the 244 Filipino peacekeepers is still being finalized and waiting for the availability of the President, who is abroad for a five-nation tour in Europe and the US from September 13 to 24.

Both Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, and Col. Roberto Angcan, head of the AFP Peacekeeping Operation Center, refused to disclose more details about the event, which will be supervised by the Palace.

The 244 Filipino peacekeepers from the Golan Heights arrived in Manila on a UN-chartered plane on Friday from Tel Aviv, Israel, two weeks ahead of schedule amid worsening security in the border region.

Zagala said the second batch of 84 troops is expected to arrive late last night via commercial flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

He added that the President would lead the event tentatively set on Sept. 26 in Malacañang.

“Actually we are reserving that (heroes’ welcome) for the President that’s why we don’t discuss the details yet. The President will be the one to lead the heroes’ welcome,” Zagala added.

Aside from the 244 UN peacekeepers, Zagala said there were 102 soldiers who have been repatriated along with Col. James Ezra Enriquez, head of the Filipino troops for United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

Enriquez requested immediate repatriation after resigning his post following disagreements with the Indian UNDOF commander, Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha, who ordered the Filipino troops to surrender their weapons to the Syrian rebels. Enriquez defied this order.

The standoff prompted the pullout of peacekeepers from the Golan Heights and from Liberia that is now in crisis due to the Ebola virus outbreak. 

The UNDOF also deemed it practical that the repatriation be done early because of the deteriorating situation in Golan Heights.

Zagala maintained a good assessment of the Filipino contingents’ performance in Golan Heights despite the dangerous situation and the pullout of other nations last year.

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES BOTH LT ENRIQUEZ GOLAN HEIGHTS IQBAL SINGH SINGHA JAMES EZRA ENRIQUEZ NINOY AQUINO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT OFFICIALS OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACEKEEPING OPERATION CENTER ZAGALA
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