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

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

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.


India to begin commercial vaccine exports with shipments to Brazil, Morocco

India to begin commercial vaccine exports with shipments to Brazil, Morocco
Updated 21 January 2021

India to begin commercial vaccine exports with shipments to Brazil, Morocco

India to begin commercial vaccine exports with shipments to Brazil, Morocco
  • Supply of commercially contracted quantities will also begin to Saudi Arabia and South Africa
  • The shots developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University are being manufactured at the Serum Institute of India

NEW DELHI: India’s government has cleared commercial exports of COVID-19 vaccines, with the first consignments to be shipped to Brazil and Morocco on Friday, the Indian foreign secretary told Reuters.
The shots developed by UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and Oxford University are being manufactured at the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, which has received orders from countries across the world.
The Indian government had held off exporting doses until it began its own domestic immunization program last weekend. Earlier this week, it sent free supplies to neighboring countries including Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said commercial supplies of the vaccine would begin from Friday in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment that India’s production capacities would be used for all of humanity to fight the pandemic.
“In keeping with this vision, we have responded positively to requests for supply of Indian manufactured vaccines from countries across the globe, starting with our neighbors,” he said, referring to the free supplies. “Supply of commercially contracted quantities will also commence from tomorrow, starting with Brazil and Morocco, followed by South Africa and Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Brazil, which has world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll after the United States, has been urging India to send the AstraZeneca vaccine. It has agreed to take 2 million doses from Serum and was ready to send a plane last week to pick them up.
Morocco, South Africa and Saudi Arabia have also secured supplies from Serum, officials said.