Reds concede to UN’s call for ceasefire

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 24) —The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), a wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is now recommending unilateral ceasefire in response to the United Nations' call for global truce so all states can focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel requested the NDFP National Council and the CPP to issue a unilateral ceasefire beginning from 12am of March 26 until 11:59pm of April 15.

“This recommendation to suspend military offensives against the reactionary armed forces of the GRP would allow the revolutionary movement particularly its revolutionary health committees in the guerrilla zones, and in rural and urban communities, to focus their full attention to fight the spread of Covid-19 in the country, and to further protect and safeguard the people’s health and welfare,” said NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili in statement on Tuesday night.

The NDFP represents rebels in peace talks with the government, aimed at ending the five-decade insurgency of the CPP and its armed wing, New People's Army.

Despite the ceasefire, NDFP said that it will still be on guard against military attacks.

“Even while respecting and following the unilateral ceasefire order, the New People’s Army and the people’s militia must be alert and act in self-defense against any offensive by hostile forces,” said Agcaoili.

Earlier, CPP founder and NDFP chief political consultant Joma Sison also recommended a ceasefire.

Sison said a truce will enable the country "to gain more time and opportunity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas."

He stressed that armed communist rebels will be ready to act in self-defense if government forces attack.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA effective March 19 to April 15. This was after he placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine – deploying the police and military to restrict people's movement – to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Sison earlier said the move was "premature, if not insincere and false" and that there's "no clear basis" for the NDFP to reciprocate it.

Malacañang said Sison's latest statement is a "positive development," adding that it hopes the CPP-NPA would make good on their word.

"At this crucial time, the Filipino people deserve and need a safe and peaceful environment where there is unimpeded movement of health workers, medical supplies, food and other needs and services, in view of the current state of calamity and public health emergency. We therefore welcome the cooperation of all, including those in the Left, to realize our goal of absolute peace during these times," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on all warring parties across the world to lay down their weapons to focus on fighting the coronavirus disease.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has killed more than 17,200 people, mostly in Italy, although the outbreak began in Wuhan, China in December last year. Over 390,000 people have been infected, according to the Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 global tracker.

The Philippines now has 552 confirmed OVID-19 cases. Of this number, 35 have died while 20 have recovered.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producer Eimor Santos and Mult-Platform News Writer Vince Ferreras contributed to this report