Philippine rebels declare cease-fire to heed UN chief’s call amid COVID-19 pandemic

The communist insurgency has raged mostly in the Philippine countryside for more than half a century in one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Philippine rebels declare cease-fire to heed UN chief’s call amid COVID-19 pandemic

  • Communist insurgency has raged mostly in the Philippine countryside for more than half a century
  • Government declared a unilateral cease-fire with communist guerrillas last week to focus on fighting the coronavirus outbreak

MANILA: Communist guerrillas in the Philippines said Wednesday they would observe a cease-fire in compliance with the UN chief’s call for a global halt in armed clashes during the coronavirus pandemic.
New People’s Army guerrillas have been ordered to stop assaults and shift to a defensive position from Thursday to April 15, the Communist Party of the Philippines said in a statement.
The rebels said the cease-fire is a “direct response to the call of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global cease-fire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Guterres issued the call on Monday, saying, “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
The communist insurgency has raged mostly in the Philippine countryside for more than half a century in one of Asia’s longest-running rebellions. The military estimates about 3,500 armed guerrillas remain after battle setbacks, infighting and surrenders reduced their forces in decades of fighting although the rebels claim they have more armed combatants.
The rebels said their cease-fire is unrelated to a similar move by the military and police but said it can foster the possible holding of preliminary talks to resume long-stalled peace negotiations.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral cease-fire with communist guerrillas last week to focus on fighting the coronavirus outbreak that prompted him to place the northern third of the country under a strict quarantine. The rebels are active in the northern region, home to more than 50 million people.
Duterte launched peace talks with the rebels when he took office in mid-2016. But the negotiations, brokered by the Netherlands, eventually bogged down with both sides accusing the other of continuing to carry out attacks.
Although he has often lashed out at the rebels, Duterte has repeatedly signaled he is open to resuming negotiations with them. In December, he sent an envoy to meet communist rebel leaders on self-exile in Europe to discuss the prospects of resuming peace talks.


Melbourne eases lockdown, schools, work resume

Updated 15 min 18 sec ago

Melbourne eases lockdown, schools, work resume

  • Melbourne and surrounding parts of rural Victoria state were placed under strict “Level 4” lockdowns on Aug. 2
  • The restrictions were scheduled to be eased Sunday if the rolling 14-day average of new infections was between 30 and 50 cases
CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, has further eased lockdown restrictions imposed after a surge in coronavirus cases, allowing most children to return to school from next month and sending more than 125,000 people back to work.
Melbourne and surrounding parts of rural Victoria state were placed under strict “Level 4” lockdowns on Aug. 2, shuttering schools and non-essential businesses, imposing a nighttime curfew and prohibiting public gatherings.
The restrictions were scheduled to be eased Sunday if the rolling 14-day average of new infections was between 30 and 50 cases. With 12 new infections reported Saturday and 16 Sunday, the 14-day average has dropped to 22.1.
That allowed Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews to confirm the 9 p.m.- 5.a.m curfew will be lifted from 5 a.m. Monday, though residents still cannot travel more than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from home. Public gatherings of up to five people from a maximum of two households will be allowed.
A further easing could take place on Oct. 19 if the average falls below five new cases per day. Masks remain mandatory.
Andrews said there are 399 active cases in Victoria, the first time that number has fallen below 400 since June 30.
“It’s one measure among many of the amazing performance of the Victorian community — staying apart but sticking together, making sure that we defeat this second wave,” Andrews said.