AFP: PH troops in Golan ready vs chemical warfare

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights are properly equipped for chemical warfare, Armed Forces chief Gen Emmanuel Bautista told reporters on Wednesday, August 28.

"Our Filipino troops in Golan Heights, the [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)], are properly equipped for chemical warfare," Bautista said.

Bautista said they were earlier issued masks and chemical suits, complying with earlier conditions reportedly set by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in order to continue the country' engagement with the UNDOF.

Up to 1,300 people were killed in neighboring Syria on August 21 because of chemical weapons that US and Syria's main opposition group said were unleashed by the forces of Syria President Bashar al-Assad.

The US said there is "very little doubt" that chemical weapons were used on civilains. US forces were ready to strike Syria on Tuesday, August 27, to punish the Assad government for unleashing chemical warfare.

Aquino earlier threatened to withdraw Filipinos troops in Golan Heights because of the continued violence spilling over from Syria. 

In March 2013, 21 Filipino peacekeepers were kidnaped by Syrian rebels as "frontiers of their war against President Bashar al-Assad." On June 6, a Filipino peacekeeper was wounded, prompting the Philippine government to reconsider its troops' presence in Golan Heights. 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said Filipinos troops would remain in UNDOF until August 11 but Bautista said they are still there. 

"We have not yet rotated them. We are waiting for approval of next rotaion. Anytime now, they can be rotated already. We are just waiting for approval," said Bautista — With reports from Agence France-Presse/