MANILA - The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Tuesday declared a ceasefire with government forces amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic raging across the country.
The ceasefire will last from the midnight of March 26 to April 15, 2020 following the recommendation of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which represents the communist rebels in peace negotiations with the Philippine government.
The CPP ordered its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), and its "people's militias" to "cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the GRP (Government of the Philippines)."
"The purpose of this unilateral ceasefire is to ensure and facilitate necessary, unhampered and immediate medical, health and economic assistance, support and movement of the people brought about by the exigencies of the current COVID-19 worldwide pandemic that has affected a growing number of Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike," CCP said in a statement.
However, the NDFP negotiating panel cautioned the NPA and the people's militia to remain on their toes against any hostile actions.
"As in the past, the Duterte government cannot be trusted in any mutual or unilateral ceasefire agreements, as the bombings of communities, harassment, abductions and killings perpetrated by its armed forces continue unabated," NDFP peace panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said in a statement.
The NDFP also criticized the Philippine government's response to the health crisis, saying many hospitals suffer from shortage of medical frontliners and supplies.
"Essential testing for COVID-19 is hijacked by a few politicians, their families and staff, and other so-called very important persons. Hundreds of thousands of workers and farmers, and those in the informal sector affected by the 'lockdowns' are still kept in the dark where to get their families’ next meals for many days already," it added.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a ceasefire with communist rebels as the Luzon island was placed under enhanced community quarantine to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The President ordered the Department of National Defense (DND), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), AFP, and PNP to "cease and desist from carrying out offensive military and police operations during the ceasefire period" from March 19 to April 15, 2020.
On Tuesday, the military reported that an indigenous community in Kapalong town, Davao del Norte was attacked by alleged members of NPA.
The attack took place at Sitio Tapayanon on Tuesday morning that prompted the military to respond, said Capt. Jerry Lamosao, spokesperson of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division.
Government troops and suspected rebels exchange gunfire before the alleged NPA rebels fled the area. No one was reported hurt.