Philippines, leftist rebels declare truces in disaster areas
By Erik de Castro
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - The Philippine government and Maoist rebels have declared truces in two southern provinces devastated by a typhoon last week as the army concentrates on relief and many rebels recover from the disaster, a commander said on Monday.
Typhoon Bopha killed 647 people and caused crop damage worth 8.5 billion pesos ($210 million).
The most intense storm to hit the Philippines this year wiped out about 90 percent of three coastal towns in Davao Oriental province and buried an entire town in neighboring Compostela Valley province under mud.
Communist New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas are active in those two worst-hit provinces, which are on Mindano island.
Major-General Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander, said he had ordered troops to shift from combat to relief operations, and to help deliver food and rebuild communities.
"We heard the rebels had declared an informal ceasefire, we welcome that because we can all concentrate on helping typhoon victims," Bernardo told Reuters.
"I believe many of these rebels were also affected and could be in the shelter areas."
The death toll stood at 647 on Monday, with nearly 800 missing and more than 1,000 injured, the national disaster agency said in its latest tally. About 100 fishermen were feared lost between Mindanao and Indonesia's Sulawesi island. Continued...