MALACAÑANG welcomed Monday the decision of the New People's Army (NPA) rebels to declare a temporary unilateral ceasefire in Surigao del Norte and parts of Agusan del Norte to give way for the relief operations in areas struck by the recent strong earthquake.

"We are glad that the NPA heeded the call of the military for a ceasefire in earthquake-affected areas. We welcome their declaration and hope they do not renege on it as they have previously done," Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.

The NPA lifted its truce with the national government on February 10, after President Rodrigo Duterte's failure to release all political prisoners.

But following the recent appeal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to spare quake-hit areas from attacks, the NPA on Sunday announced a unilateral ceasefire that will end at 11:55 p.m. of February 20.

The end of hostilities is enforced in Surigao del Norte and the municipalities of Cabadbaaran, Tubay, Jabonga and Santiago in Agusan del Norte.

“This ceasefire is being declared to give the Red fighters of the NPA in Front 16, all government agencies, including the police and the AFP, and non-government organizations, the opportunity to inspect the areas affected, especially the mountain areas, for damages resulting from the earthquake,” NPA-North Eastern Mindanao Region spokesperson Ariel Montero said.

"Above all, this declaration of ceasefire is to enable the delivery of immediate aid to the masses and for them to be given assistance towards the rehabilitation of their damaged properties and livelihood," he added. (SunStar Philippines)