Philippines to Offer Holiday Truce to Muslim, Communist Rebels

Published November 29th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The Philippines is to declare a traditional unilateral cease-fire with Muslim separatists and communist insurgents during the Christmas holidays and the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said Wednesday. 

He said he would recommend that President Joseph Estrada support the cease-fire, which would cover members of the Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the communist New People's Army (NPA). 

"We hope it will encourage the MILF rebels to seriously consider the proposed resumption of peace talks with government," Mercado said. 

"It will also allow them to contribute to the rehabilitation of the communities affected by the conflict." 

The truce however does not cover the smaller Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf. 

Abu Sayyaf guerrillas are on the run from a massive military offensive in the southern island of Jolo where they are holding an American and a Filipino hostage from among dozens of captives seized in a kidnapping spree this year. 

The cease-fire with the MILF could start "immediately" once approved by Estrada and should last until December 26, when the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends here. 

Mercado said the truce with the NPA meanwhile could begin on December 16 and would last through January. 

The MILF is the country's largest remaining Muslim insurgent group backed by an estimated 13,800 members while the NPA is the armed wing of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). 

Military officials have said both groups have entered into a strategic alliance after MILF forces were routed from their main headquarters by government troops in July. 

Peace talks with both insurgent groups have been suspended -- MANILA (AFP)  

 

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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