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Why Philippines abstained from United Nations resolution
Published on: Monday, October 30, 2023
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Why Philippines abstained from United Nations resolution
Lagdameo (right) addresses the UN General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York on Friday. - Screenshot/UN livestream
MANILA: Philippines on Saturday abstained from voting on a United Nations (UN) resolution calling for an “immediate humanitarian truce” in Hamas-run Gaza, but raised concerns on the mounting number of civilians killed in operations launched in response to an October 7 attack by Hamas militants on towns in Israel.

The Philippines is among 45 countries that abstained from the non-binding resolution at the UN General Assembly. A total of 120 members voted in favour, while 14 others voted against it. The resolution, co-sponsored by Jordan and nearly 50 other countries, centred largely on the dire humanitarian situation in sealed-off Gaza as Israel presses on with its bombardment and prepares for an assault into the territory.

The document urges the “immediate” provision of water, food, medical supplies, fuel and electricity and unhindered access for UN and other humanitarian agencies trying to help the Palestinians.

Ambassador Antonio Lagdameo, Sr. told the UN General Assembly that the Philippines is alarmed at the “state of civilian casualties” in the war between Israel and Hamas militants, which has dragged on for three weeks.

The representative of the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN added that the country is concerned at the “massive destruction of health and medical facilities that further increases the unnecessary human suffering.” But the country had reservations on the proposed resolution, he said.

“As we condemn all terrorist attacks, the resolution does not mention nor condemn the terrorist attack of [October 7] by Hamas leading to the death of innocent civilians including women and children, as well as some Filipinos,”

“Therefore, despite the commendable efforts of the co-sponsors to improve the original text, for these reasons, my delegation abstained on the resolution,” he said. “Most importantly, we urge all concerned to immediately put in place urgent solutions that will prevent the conflict from further escalating, spreading and protracting.”

The country also urged the UN Security Council to endorse and support efforts for the safe evacuation of individuals in conflict areas. It also expressed its support for a two-state solution “with a safe and independent Palestine and a secure Israel living in peace.”

He said: “Both Israeli and Palestinians deserve a future where their rights, aspirations, and security are recognised and upheld. This enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a pivotal determinant for the peace and stability of the region.”

The Philippines urged “all parties to elevate dialogue as the primary tool for a peaceful and lasting resolution.”

Security analyst Chester Cabalza of International Development and Security Cooperation told ABS-CBN News that the resolution is a “tricky balancing act” for the country since Israel has been a long-time ally. Philippines has had a big part in the history of Israel, from the time of the Holocaust up to the creation of their state, the Israeli Embassy earlier said.

Many Jewish families found a home in the Philippines after narrowly escaping Adolf Hitler’s gas chambers during the Nazi tyranny in the 1930s.

“We paved a way for the good passage of many Jews and saved them during [World War II]. The main reason we have preferential treatment with Tel Aviv and we are not required a visa when visiting their country,” Cabalza said in an online exchange. Israel has also been a supplier of artillery and armoured vehicles to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Ambassador Ilan Fluss is quoted in media reports in May that his country wants to play a “major part” in the ongoing modernisation of the AFP.

The United States, the Philippines’ treaty ally and major defence supplier, also rejected the resolution, saying it was “outrageous” that the resolution did not mention Hamas, its attacks and its taking of hostages.

Cabalza pointed out Saturday that Philippines “has also a Muslim population in southern Philippines.”

Implementation of a 2014 peace agreement — including the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region — meant to correct centuries of historical injustice is still ongoing in Marawi City in the Bangsamoro region six years since fighting between security forces and the terrorist Maute group that laid siege to it in 2017.

Noting displays of support and sympathy in parts of the Philippines for the Palestinian people “as the war developed”, Cabalza said the government “should remain neutral and vigilant” of the sentiments of Muslim Filipino communities.

He added: “In times like these, the Philippine government should advocate for neutrality...especially that our country remains vulnerable to terrorism and violent extremism.”

Cabalza said the Philippines’ abstention “should be reviewed” as the humanitarian needs of Palestinian civilians pile up. “Support for the right to defend itself has limitations as not to abuse and curtail human rights and atrocities of war. Military might does not justify the end,” he said.

Activist coalition Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), meanwhile, described the vote as shameful. “Neutrality in the time of genocide is unacceptable. The situation in Gaza has reached its worst so far since the bombings began,” Bayan president Renato Reyes, Jr. said.

“Yes, the Philippine abstention is a ‘vote’ for the continued genocide in Gaza. There is no other way to describe it,” Reyes added. Bayan has said that its stands with the Palestinian resistance and its people’s right to self-determination. It also criticised a proposal earlier this month for the Philippines to declare Hamas a terrorist organisation, saying the Anti-Terrorism Council does not have that power.

Israel has heavily bombarded Gaza since Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping over 220 others, according to Israeli officials.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, in an update on Friday, said the Israeli strikes had now killed 7,326 people, mainly civilians and many of them children.

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