MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has announced the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels this Christmas season, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the suspension of military operations will run from December 24, 2017 to January 2, 2018.
Roque said the Philippine government expects the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army “would do a similar gesture of goodwill.”
"This unilateral ceasefire would lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season,” he said in a statement.
"Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of our countrymen. In the observance of this occasion, we hope that all Filipinos would stand together as one nation and aspire for peace in our beloved Philippines.”
Duterte previously expressed hesitation about declaring a Christmas truce with the communist rebels.
However, in an interview with reporters early Wednesday, he said he wants the public to be safe during the Christmas festivities.
"Baka sabihin nila walang ceasefire ngayon baka magkaputukan then you put a lot of strain on the people. I will think about it. That would be my primary consideration,” he said.
"‘Yung ceasefire is a unilateral action of government to refrain from attacking. A lot of people are going around, even at night, enjoying Christmas day or whatever. Magsi-simba. I do not want to add more strain to what people are now suffering," he added.
Duterte terminated peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in November amid the NPA’s continued assaults against state troops.
He then declared the CPP-NPA as a terror organization and ordered the arrest of its high-ranking officials who were temporarily freed from detention to participate in the peace talks.
The President in recent weeks has been lashing out at the NPA for its attacks on government troops, the latest of which was on soldiers conducting relief operations in Northern Samar.
He likened the the NPA to international terror network Islamic State, which he said is bereft of any ideology.