GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 26 March) – Government forces have continued to launch military operations against the New People’s Army across the Caraga Region despite the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire last week by President Duterte to enable government to focus its efforts on addressing the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, a regional officer of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said.
“At the moment, combat operations of the 30th IB, 29th IB, 36th IB and 3rdSFB of the AFP and PNP combat troops continue in the mountains of Butuan City; Surigao del Norte; in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur; and in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur. Meanwhile many of their troops continue to occupy the barrios in the region to implement CSP,” Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of NDFP-Northeastern Mindanao Region said in a statement dated March 19 but received by MindaNews on March 24.
On Tuesday, the Communist Party of the Philippines issued its own unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to a call by the United Nations for a unified global effort in fighting the disease.
“Upon the recommendation of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), by way of direct response to the call of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) hereby orders all commands and units of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the people’s militias to observe a nationwide ceasefire that will take effect from 00:00H of 26 March 2020 to 23:59H of 15 April 2020,” the CPP said.
Malaya said Duterte’s ceasefire order should compel military units operating in the region to pull out.
“This includes those implementing civil-military operations (CMO) such as community support program,” she said.
She alleged that the military operations have hampered agricultural production because the soldiers “control the schedule of farmers” on suspicion that “they will meet with the NPA.”
Major Gerry Magayaga, CMO commander of the 30th Infantry Battalion, denied Malaya’s allegations in a phone interview Thursday.
He said what they’re doing instead is helping people in livelihood projects and in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Villarosa, commanding officer of the 30IB, has yet to respond to MindaNews’ query sent via text message.
In a phone interview, Ka Oto, spokesperson of the NPA’s Front 16 operating in Surigao del Norte and portion of Agusan del Norte said they will desist from attacking government troops but will maintain a defensive position.
“We adhere to the call of the United Nations to stop the warring parties as we fight the Covid-19 on a global scale,” he said. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)