October 31, 2023
MANILA – Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo on Monday stressed that the Philippines’ abstention from voting on the United Nations resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war did not mean that the country was against the measure.
“We tried to make it very clear that there were many elements in that resolution which we favor … and we will continue to support efforts by the United Nations to put a stop to sufferings in Gaza,” Manalo said during a press briefing for the official visit of Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot.
In an interview with reporters, Manalo also said they “assume” Filipinos were among those taken hostage in the Israel-Hamas war.
“Actually we assumed there are hostages because they are not accounted for,” he said, adding that the government would continue to “exert every effort to at least” locate them.
Reuters earlier reported that Hamas was holding captives from different countries, including two from the Philippines.
“We are monitoring the situation not only in Gaza but also in other areas … the problem is the corridor is not yet open for them to pass. But the minute that corridor is open, we’ll have our assets available to take them out,” said Manalo, adding that they are exerting diplomatic efforts to help those trapped in the conflict.
According to the country’s top diplomat, among the issues that he and Bruins Slot discussed included the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, as well as the need for humanitarian measures to protect the civilian population and the opening of humanitarian corridors.
The Netherlands also abstained
Like the Philippines, The Netherlands also abstained from voting on the resolution during the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly on Friday. Bruins Slot cited “essential aspects” missing in the resolution, including the lack of adequate call to the immediate release of all hostages.
“We had wished to have had a reference at least to that terrorist attack in the resolution,” said Manalo, referring to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, including four Filipinos and other foreigners.
He noted that there was a Canadian amendment to include a reference to that particular incident.
“Unfortunately, it was voted on and did not pass. But it just missed actual adoption by a few votes,” Manalo said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said that 88 countries backed Ottawa but they were eight votes short to have “this critical element” included in the resolution.
“We felt that it was very important, at least to recognize that there were terrorist attacks and Filipino nationals were killed during the attack. And in fact, we still have two Filipinos missing as a result of that Oct. 7 terrorist attack. That should have been reflected in the resolution,” Manalo explained.
64 Pinoys flee war
The UN resolution called for the immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, the release of all civilian hostages by Hamas, the protection of civilians and international institutions and the assurance of the safe passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
It condemned the “acts of terrorism and indiscriminate attacks” against civilians but only expressed “grave concern” over the “latest escalation of violence” that started with Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
The resolution was supported by 120 countries while 14 others voted against it. The Philippines was one of the 45 countries that abstained from voting.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Monday provided P20,000 worth of food and cash assistance to 64 OFWs who arrived on Monday from Israel. The OFWs were hotel workers and caregivers in Israel, said Romel Lopez, spokesperson for the DSWD.
Philippine officials were able to get in touch with some Filipinos still inside the Gaza Strip on Sunday after internet and cellular lines were cut off.
“We were able to contact 87 Filipinos, including 57 at the Rafah crossing,” said the Philippine Embassy in Amman, quoting Ambassador Wilfredo Santos. It added that at least 49 other Filipinos in the area have yet to be reached.