Philippines

Philippines: PGMA approves suspension of military operations; CPP announces 5-day ceasefire

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Tacloban City (December 24) -- The Philippine Government and the Communist Party of the Philippines declared a ceasefire in deference to the Christmas Season.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved the recommendation from Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado for a suspension of military operations (Somo) from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, and from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1.

Matching the government move, the CPP also announced a five-day ceasefire covering the same dates.

"[This] is a gesture of goodwill and desire for peace and tranquility during the celebration and observance of Christmas and New Year," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in a Malacañang briefing.

This is expected to be the last Somo under Ms Arroyo, who had vowed to wipe out the communist insurgency before stepping down from the Palace next year.

Despite the ceasefire announcement, both sides said they were keeping a defensive stance against violations.

Malacañang also appealed to the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), not to "desecrate the holiness of the season" with attacks timed with the party's 41st founding anniversary on Saturday.

Secretary Ermita expressed hoped that the Maoist rebels would not mount any attack on the occasion of the CPP's 41st anniversary on December 26.

"In the spirit of the holidays, let us maintain peace in our area-not so much because we, in government, ask you but because our people deserve some peace and tranquility during the holidays and that includes yourselves and your families and your immediate friends in your own communities," Ermita said.

According to both camps, the ceasefire will be observed from 12:01 in the morning of Thursday to midnight of December 26, and from 12:01 o'clock in the morning of December 31 to midnight of January 1. (PIA 8)