MANILA, Philippines - An 18-day Christmas and New Year truce between government troops and New People’s Army rebels begins today, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced yesterday.
Military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said the suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO), which runs until Jan. 2, has the approval of President Aquino.
“The objective of this unilateral implementation of Yuletide SOMO against the NPA is to demonstrate the AFP’s commitment, sincerity and resolve for peace in spite of conflicts with the insurgent group,” Burgos said, relaying a message from AFP chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa.
Burgos added the SOMO would give soldiers on the frontlines as well as villagers in conflict areas the opportunity to celebrate the holidays peacefully.
The Communist Party of the Philippines is celebrating its founding anniversary on Dec. 26.
With the ceasefire, Burgos said all field units are under orders to refocus their efforts on development and humanitarian efforts, particularly in areas ravaged by super typhoon “Pablo,” particularly Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
The affected regions are also considered rebel strongholds.
Recently, the rebels announced a unilateral truce in the Davao region but reportedly broke it when they tried to murder a military official. At least five soldiers were killed by communist guerillas last year despite a similar holiday truce.
Despite the ceasefire, Burgos said government troops were not taking any chances by staying on full alert and continuing their security patrols.
“We hope that the past transgressions and violations committed by the rebels that stained the holidays with violence will not happen again this year. We know fully well the importance of ceasefires in our quest for peace as proven by the successful signing of the Bangsamoro peace framework agreement,” Dellosa said in press statement.
He added that the SOMO will also allow the soldiers to celebrate peacefully the AFP’s 77th anniversary on Dec. 21.
“As a nation that nurtures its free and democratic institutions, the AFP takes its time to recognize and acknowledge the collective and selfless efforts of its soldiers that were instrumental in maintaining peace and security in our communities, especially now that many of our men and women are working round the clock conducting search, rescue and relief operations in disaster-stricken areas in Mindanao,” Dellosa said.
“Our adherence to the SOMO is but a small part of our commitment to achieving that lifetime of peace, security, and development our people deserve,” he added.
Meanwhile, the government peace panel lauded yesterday the communist rebels’ declaration of a 29-day ceasefire in areas devastated by super typhoon Pablo. – With Jose Rodel Clapano - By Jaime Laude