UCAN REPORT- As the Philippine government and communist rebels started a Christmas ceasefire yesterday, Catholic bishops in the central Philippine province of Negros Occidental urged both sides to look beyond the truce and achieve lasting peace.
Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said the country cannot afford to have a “constantly precarious” situation due to the almost four decades of conflict.
“We cannot move forward if we live in a constantly precarious situation caused by war,” Bishop Navarra was quoted in a news article in the Visayan Daily Star.
The call came even as government peace negotiators expressed “grave concern” over an attack by communist New People’s Army rebels in Samar province that resulted in the death of 10 soldiers and a nine-year-old boy.
“This incident mars an otherwise momentous agreement forged during the informal talks held in Hong Kong a few weeks ago,” said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles.
But she said the government “remains steadfast in its commitment to honor the agreed-upon suspension of military operations.”
Reports said the soldiers were on their way back to barracks for the “suspension of offensive military operations” when they were ambushed by the rebels.
Meanwhile, Kabankalan Bishop Patricio Buzon said the ceasefire between government troops and the rebels, which will last until Jan. 3, will be good for everyone.
The bishop, however, said the basic condition for peace will have to start from the heart, even as he stressed the need for sincerity on both sides.
San Carlos Bishop Jose Advincula said he hopes the ceasefire will lead to more lasting peace for the country.
The ceasefire is a confidence-building measure for the resumption of formal peace talks in February 2011.