The Philippine government and communist rebels have mutually declared a temporary cessation of hostilities from midnight, Dec. 23 until Jan. 7.
The temporary truce is a reflection of the “government’s seriousness and commitment” to peace as well as a sign of “goodwill” on the part of the president, said a government spokesman.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier declared his willingness to resume peace talks with communist rebels who have been waging a 50-year insurgency in the country.
The Communist Party of the Philippines has also ordered its armed wing, the New People’s Army, to stand down during the Christmas season.
The rebels said the ceasefire aims “to generate a positive atmosphere” conducive to “peace negotiations.”
The underground Christians for National Liberation welcomed the truce as “a spark of light in the middle of the darkness.”
Sister Karmela Adama, a spokeswoman for the clandestine organization, said Christmas could be used as a pretense to resume peace negotiations.
“Why cannot we allow Christ to stand in the middle and be the reason to resume talks?,” asked Adama.
Several church leaders also lauded the declaration of the holiday truce.
Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan said the Church is firm in its stand to “always talk for peace,” adding that “the use of the gun is not a solution.”
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said the holiday truce is “very good news” for Filipinos.
“I hope that the truce becomes permanent,” he said.
“We greet with much jubilation the declarations and the impending resumption of formal peace talks,” said Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church.
He said the truce gives Filipinos “a reason to celebrate Christmas and the New Year’s holidays with “greater hope and joy.”
“As Christians, we see the impending resumption of peace talks as a time to deepen our faith,” said Bishop Calang, who organizes the group Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao.
Duterte announced the termination of peace negotiations with the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines in November 2017.