Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Ariel Peñaranda (Photo courtesy of DFA/United Nations Photo Library)

MANILA – The Philippines fully supports measures that would protect civilians during war or conflicts in urban settings, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

The measures include strict adherence to international humanitarian law, adopting responsible military operations, and providing humanitarian assistance based on the principle of impartiality, among others.

The Philippines' support was articulated during the United Nations Security Council High-Level Open Debate on “War in Cities: Protection of Civilians in Urban Settings” last January 26.

Philippine Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ariel Peñaranda said civilians are the most affected when war and conflict are waged in cities, thus the need to pursue "right tactical choices in the context of long-term political solutions."

He emphasized the need to ensure respect for international humanitarian law under all circumstances.

This as he made a reference to Philippine laws demonstrating the country’s strong commitment to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.

He added that parties must take a more proactive approach for responsible military operations in urban settings in view of highly volatile and complex urban warfare.

“The decision to employ the kind of weapons to gain military advantage must fully take into account domestic laws and international legal obligations,” he said.

“The use of an advanced weapon system, combined with an acute focus on humanitarian assistance, while taking heed of domestic and international laws, and respect for sovereignty, would allow nations to better protect civilians during armed conflict in urban settings,” he added.

The open debate was convened by the Security Council under the presidency of Norway.

'Strategic priority'

Presiding over the meeting, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of Norway stated that the “effective protection of civilians and civilian objects must be made a strategic priority in the planning and conduct of military operations in urban areas.”

He added that ensuring the protection of civilians would also lead to more sustainable peace after conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said more than 50 million people are currently impacted by fighting inside towns and cities. In fact, when explosive weapons are used in these areas, around 90 percent of the injured and killed are actually not part of the conflict.

Citing the 2021 fight between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, Guterres said nearly 800,000 people were also left without access to piped water.

In Afghanistan, an explosive attack outside a Kabul high school last May, killed 90 students, mainly girls, and left another 240 people injured.

Guterres said this type of conflict goes far beyond its more immediate impact, putting people at risk of sieges and blockades, including starvation. 

“Urban warfare forces millions of people from their homes, contributing to record numbers of refugees and internally displaced people," he said.

The Security Council first took up the protection of civilians in armed conflict as a thematic issue in 1999. (PNA)