MAOIST rebels in the Philippines on Friday declared a traditional Christmas truce after the government announced the same, calling off hostilities for six days.
In a statement posted on its website, Jorge Madlos, alias Ka Oris, spokesman for the communist New People Army (NPA), said the truce would last from Saturday to Tuesday, when the group celebrates its 49th anniversary.
“All units of the NPA and the people’s militias shall remain on active defensive mode in order to defend the people and revolutionary forces,” Madlos said, adding the guerrillas will “maintain a high degree of alertness and preparation against any hostile actions or movements by enemy armed forces”.
“During this period, all NPA units and people’s militias shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military campaigns and operations against the uniformed armed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its paramilitaries, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.”
On Thursday, the Defence Department announced a truce over the same period to allow Filipinos to celebrate a “stress-free” Christmas season.
Both the government and the NPA have declared Christmas truces since the late 1980s when the two sides first agreed to peace talks, brokered by Norway. The tradition has continued even after negotiations stalled and now have been scrapped by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The presidential palace said it welcomed the unilateral ceasefire.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque was quoted by the Manila Bulletin as saying he wished the Filipinos a peaceful celebration of the world’s most festive and joyful season.
“We wish the whole nation a peaceful Christmas and New Year,” he said.
The NPA rebels, estimated to number around 3,000, have been fighting for nearly 50 years in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people and stifled growth in resource-rich areas of the country.
The country also faces various Islamist insurgencies in the south.
Additional reporting by Reuters