The Philippines (search) will not withdraw its troops from Iraq sooner than their scheduled Aug. 20 departure as demanded by militants threatening to behead their Filipino hostage, the foreign secretary said Sunday.

Insurgents who snatched Angelo dela Cruz (search) on Wednesday near the Iraqi city of Fallujah gave Manila until Sunday night to agree to withdraw its 51 peacekeepers by July 20.

"In line with our commitment to the free people of Iraq, we reiterate our plan to return our humanitarian contingent as scheduled Aug. 20," Foreign Secretary Delia Albert said after a nearly four-hour emergency Cabinet meeting.

"We continue to do everything we can in order to secure the release of Angelo de la Cruz. We continue to work both through formal and informal channels toward this end. We are hopeful that with the continued support and prayers of the people, we will hurdle this crisis."