Aquino approves holiday ceasefire
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III approved a nationwide Christmas ceasefire directing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to suspend offensive military operations for 25 days.
The ceasefire takes effect at 12:01 am of December 21 and ends at 11:59 pm of January 15, 2014.
Security forces, however, will maintain defensive readiness.
The government's declaration comes two days after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declared a 6-day unilateral ceasefire for the holidays – 3 days for Christmas and another 3 days for the New Year. The ceasefire disallows all commands and units of the New People's Army (NPA) and the people's militia from carrying out offensive operations against the military, police, and other paramilitary forces.
In a statement, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said "government continues its traditional call for a Christmas ceasefire" so those in conflict areas can "celebrate Advent with their families, far from all harm."
"This year, a Christmas ceasefire gains added urgency with the call for healing and rebuilding that resonate in this Season and its promise of a new life to all," she said.
Deles pointed to recent major tragedies that befell the country, especially Super Typhoon Yolanda, as having "left our nation deeply traumatized." She said rebuilding these areas should be the country's united priority this Christmas.
"Our nation needs to bind our wounds and focus our energies and resources on the tasks at hand… In this season of faith, hope and solidarity, we bind ourselves together as a people for the long-term effort to rebuild in our disaster areas and reconstruct the lives, livelihoods and property of the survivors," she said.
The CPP also earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire in Yolanda-affected areas.
Peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) resumed under the Aquino administration but reached an impasse after disagreements. The military under Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista aims to make insurgency "irrelevant" by 2016. - Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler.com