The Armed Forces of the Philippines has started an 18-day suspension of offensive operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) for the holiday season but remained on the alert for possible attacks by the rebel group.

Gen. Jessie Dellosa, AFP chief of staff, said the suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) started today (Dec. 16) and will last until Jan. 2.

“The objective of this unilateral implementation of yuletide SOMO to the NPA is to demonstrate the AFP’s commitment, sincerity, and resolve for peace in spite of conflicts with the insurgent group,” Dellosa said in a statement.

The ceasefire is also aimed at giving soldiers and villagers in conflict-hit areas the opportunity to celebrate the holidays peacefully, Dellosa said.

Military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, however, said that the AFP will continue its “proactive defense countermeasures” despite the SOMO.

This is after the military took into consideration the NPA’s “transgressions” in the past, he said.

Last year, the NPA took advantage of the 18-day SOMO and harassed a peace and development team, killing five soldiers, Burgos noted.

Soldiers will continue to conduct security patrols, route security operations, and checkpoints to protect communities, establishments, and military camps and detachments, he said. (John Roson)

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