By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

MANILA ABSTAINS. Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Antonio Lagdameo delivers the Philippine position on a UN General Assembly resolution on the hostilities in the Middle East amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday(Oct. 27, 2023). Voting 120-14 with 45 abstentions, the resolution calling for an immediate truce in Gaza was adopted Friday afternoon. (Screen grab from UN)

MANILA – The Philippine government said Saturday it would continue to support international efforts to end the “alarming deaths and suffering” in Gaza and Israel.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) indicated that it backed calls for a halt to the ongoing Israel-Hamas hostilities despite its decision to abstain from voting on a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution due to the lack of mention of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

“We continue to support efforts of the UN, particularly the UN Security Council, the UN humanitarian system and the global community, to decisively address this crisis and put a stop to the alarming deaths and suffering in Gaza and Israel,” the DFA said in a statement.

Voting 120 against 14 with 45 abstentions, the non-binding Jordanian-led UNGA resolution calling for an “immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” was adopted Friday afternoon (New York time).

The resolution marked the first formal response of the UN to the escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza after the UN Security Council failed to reach a consensus on any action.

The DFA said the Philippines had voted in favor of the amendment proposed by Canada that sought to achieve more balance in the draft and include the factual mention of the Oct. 7 “terrorist attacks.”

“This was supported by 88 states, but fell short of eight more votes that would have seen this critical element reflected in an important UN resolution,” it said.

‘PH abstention’

In explaining Manila’s abstention, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York Antonio Lagdameo said the adopted resolution failed to mention or condemn the Oct. 7 “terrorist attack” of Hamas that killed about 1,400 people, including Filipinos, in Israel.

“Overall, it expresses the grave concern of the international community over the situation, which the Philippines genuinely shares. We condole with all victims and their families and pray for a peaceful resolution of this conflict,” Lagdameo said.

“However, as we would condemn all terrorist attacks, the resolution does not mention nor condemn the terrorist attack of 7 October by Hamas leading to the deaths of innocent civilians, including women and children, as well as Filipinos.”

“Therefore, despite commendable efforts of the co-sponsors to improve the original text, for these reasons, my delegation abstained on the resolution,” he added.

Lagdameo noted that the Philippines acknowledges the right of Israel to self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.

He reiterated that Manila is concerned over the escalation of hostilities in the Middle East, both condemning the killings perpetrated by Hamas and mourning the deaths in the Palestinian territories.

Data from the UN citing the Ministry of Health in Gaza showed that 6,547 were also killed in the besieged strip since the start of hostilities.

“We mourn the loss of innocent lives and extend our sympathies to all affected civilians in Israel and the Palestinian territories. We deeply regret the violation of international humanitarian law, which has imperiled the safety of civilian populations,” Lagdameo said.

“In light of the alarming scale of civilian casualties, we call on all parties to respect international humanitarian law. We express concern at the massive destruction of health and medical facilities that further increases unnecessary human suffering.”

In addition, he called for the swift release of more than 200 hostages in Gaza, with two Filipinos suspected to be among them.

Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN Gilad Erdan, meanwhile, said there would be no talks or discussions to be held with Hamas and that “the only way to destroy Hamas is to root them out.”

“Israel will defend itself and will do what must be done to eradicate Hamas’ capabilities and bring the hostages home,” he said. (PNA)