MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Communist guerrillas in the Philippines declared a Christmas truce Friday after the government made a similar overture despite a recent breakdown of peace talks.
New People's Army spokesman Jorge Madlos said in a statement posted on a rebel website that the Maoist guerrillas would hold their fire from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26 and from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2. The Philippine military's unilateral ceasefire falls on the same period.
The rebel ceasefire was called in observance of Filipinos' traditional holidays and to mark the 49th founding anniversary on Dec. 26 of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said Madlos, who uses the nom de guerre Comrade Oris.
Despite their separately declared ceasefire, both sides have ordered their forces to brace for possible attacks.
The rebel group "is only too aware of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' treachery, attacks and deception," said Madlos. The rebels "shall closely monitor any hostile actions, provocations or movements being carried out by the enemy armed forces."
Military chief of staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero told reporters the military still regards the guerrillas as terrorists and added government forces were on a defensive stance and ordered to continue protecting communities.
"We just hope they would be sincere in their declaration," Guerrero said.
The rebel move comes despite President Rodrigo Duterte halting talks with the guerrillas last month to protest continuing rebel attacks. He also declared them as terrorists in the first step of a legal process to blacklist their group as a terrorist organization.
The guerrillas have scuttled peace talks in the past after accusing the government of helping the United Nations and the United States designate them as terrorists.
The decades-long rebellion they have waged mostly in the countryside is one of Asia's longest and has left more than 40,000 combatants and civilians dead and hampered development in some of the country's poorest regions.