China seeks to expand security role in PHL
CLARK, Pampanga – China is seeking a wider defense and security role as it helps the Philippines fight terrorists allied with the Islamic State who have staged attacks in the country.
Beijing on Wednesday donated P370 million worth of firearms and ammunition to the Philippines, saying such grant intends to contribute to the success of the country’s battle against ISIS-related terrorists amid the bloody siege in Marawi.
Terrorism, according to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, is a common enemy of China and the Philippines.
Because of this, Zhao said, Philippine and Chinese militaries should further enhance cooperation in this area.
The Chinese side, he noted, is considering exploring the possibility of joint training, intelligence-sharing, and joint military exercises on counter-terrorism.
The Philippines has depended on long-time treaty ally, the United States, for defense, security, and counter-terrorism assistance for decades.
After President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June last year, he moved to revive trade, economic, and security relations with China that have been strained by disputes over contested territories in the South China Sea.
Duterte, meanwhile, has taken a hostile stance against the US for criticizing his war on illegal drugs that has killed about 7,000 suspects and vowed to pursue an independent foreign policy that is less reliant on Washington.
China’s weapons donation include assault and sniper rifles were handed over by Zhao to Duterte in a ceremony at the Clark Freeport Zone, which is a sprawling former American airbase north of Manila.
The package is one of the most significant military assistance extended by China to the Philippines in many years.
The defense assistance was arranged at the highest levels. Duterte said he sought help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to address the emerging threat of terrorism and piracy in Mindanao during his state visit in October last year and the Chinese leader promised “unconditional help.”
Zhao said China’s provision of arms to the Philippines is “a demonstration of our growing bilateral relationship.”
“The donation is not big, but it is big in a sense that it marks a new era of relations between our two militaries and it has come at a right time,” he said.
China’s delivery of weapons came a few weeks after the US disclosed that it has deployed a P3 Orion aircraft to Marawi at the request of the Philippine government to provide enemy surveillance to Filipino troops battling the militants in Marawi City.
Australia has also said it will deploy two surveillance aircraft to help the Philippine military in the Islamic city in Mindanao.
Apart from weapons, China also donated P15 million for the rehabilitation of Marawi and another P5 million to help the victims and wounded soldiers.
“The Chinese government and Chinese military forces will continue to firmly support your fight against terrorism and we are looking forward to the further enhancement of cooperation in the areas of fighting terrorism bilaterally and in regional and international context,” Zhao said.
He also said that China also stands ready to give the Philippines a “helping hand” in carrying out anti-poverty and infrastructure projects in Mindanao and in achieving its economic and social development goals.
“China is your good neighbor, good partner, and your good relatives and China will remain so for thousand years to come,” Zhao said. — BAP, GMA News