President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday unilaterally declared a halt in hostilities against communist rebels, allowing soldiers to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo said the ceasefire would take effect at midnight on March 19 and will last until April 15, 2020.

Duterte on Monday placed Luzon under Enhanced Community Quarantine to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease, which has infected more than 200 people in the country.

“The President has directed the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), to cease and desist from carrying out offensive military and police operations during the ceasefire period,” Panelo said.

“Both of these departments shall issue the corresponding orders to implement the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire, including the Suspension of Offensive Military and Police Operations (SOMO),” he said.

“Through this ceasefire, the Philippine Government aspires that the swift provision of public health assistance goes unimpeded with the movement of health workers and medical supplies to communities, as well as of people in need of immediate medical attention remains unhampered,” he added.

The National Democratic Front on Monday said it would study a ceasefire. On Tuesday, it denounced the Luzon quarantine, calling it a “miitaristic strategy” that bode a “worse fate for the masses” than the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of thousands. (