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Rebel fighters join Haiyan rescue work

Communists put down guns to help rebuild

Communist rebels in the Philippines announced a ceasefire yesterday to help its astronomical rebuilding effort in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Authorities said the official death toll yesterday had hit 2,357, but that was still likely to rise.

The Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines said its New People's Army fighters had laid down their arms since the typhoon struck last week and wouldn't pick them up again until November 25.

The CPP said its units would "cease and desist" from operation against the police, army and pro-government paramilitaries.

But it warned that army was already using the disaster as a cover for making inroads into the "territory of the people's democratic government."

The party pointed to clashes in Sorsogon province on Wednesday.

It said President Benigno Aquino III and the army were "lying through their teeth" when they claimed they were "involved in a humanitarian mission."

They were "exploiting the plight of the Yolanda (the Filipino name for Haiyan) disaster victims to conceal the brutalities of their continued offensive operations," said the party.

And communists turned their ire on the US, accusing it of using the tragedy as a smokescreen for boosting its military role in the region.

The USS George Washington arrived in the Philippine Sea yesterday, beefing up a half a dozen-strong US fleet already in the area.

The PCC said thousands of US troops were headed to the islands, citing media reports that soldiers had taken over some airports.

"The US military has also taken advantage of the disaster in order to gain access to the Mactan airport and seaport which has long been a subject of negotiations for increased US rotational presence in the Philippines," said the party.

Aid has been slow to reach the 545,000 people displaced by the storm, with authorities having major difficulties reaching many of the outlying islands.

The PCC pointed out that the US militarised aid following the 2010 Haiti earthquake and has since maintained its presence there.

"What the disaster victims need urgently are food, water and medical attention, not US warships bringing in emergency rations to justify their armed presence in Philippine sovereign waters," it said.

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