December 22, 2005

Philippine communists reject Christmas truce

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine communist rebels said on
Thursday they will not observe the traditional Christmas
ceasefire and step up attacks in the countryside.

"We don't see any basis to declare a ceasefire," rebel
spokesman Gregorio Rosal said in a mobile phone text message
sent to reporters.

"This is in response to the relentless attacks being waged
by government forces against the unarmed civilians and abuse of
the peace negotiations."

Philippine security forces say they want a shorter than
usual truce with the 8,000-member Maoist-led New People's Army
(NPA) over the holidays due to concerns about increased
violence in the countryside.

They have suggested one-day ceasefires on December 25 and
on January 1, but President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has to
announce whether her government will declare a unilateral

Rosal said about 110 leftist activists, including
journalists and human rights lawyers, had been killed since
March this year. Four members of a non-governmental
organization in the central Luzon area were added to the list
last week.

Since 1986, the government has declared a holiday ceasefire
with communist and Muslim rebels as the mainly Roman Catholic
country marks one of the longest yuletide seasons in the world.

The Christmas season in the Philippines, celebrated with
family reunions and parties, starts with dawn masses on
December 16 and ends at the feast of Epiphany on January 6.

The NPA, active in 69 of 79 provinces, usually limits
attacks to the countryside, targeting officials it deems to be
corrupt and businesses which refuse to pay "revolutionary war

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the insurgency
since the late 1960s, scaring investors and slowing rural
development in one of Southeast Asia's poorest countries.

Peace negotiations with the communist rebels, brokered by
Norway, have been stalled since August 2004 when Manila
declined to help persuade the United States from dropping the
rebel movement from its terror blacklist.