PAMPANGA, Philippines – China donated rifles and ammunition to the Philippine military to combat terrorism, a move which it says heralds a "new era" of ties between the military forces of the two countries.
"It is a demonstration of our growing bilateral relationship. It's also a demonstration of a new era of friendly and cooperative relationship between our two militaries," said Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua on Wednesday, June 28.
He was speaking in the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, where the military assistance was turned over to the Philippine government.
The assistance, worth 50 million renminbi or around P370 million, is comprised of around 3,000 rifles and 6 million pieces of ammunition. Three kinds of rifles were provided: sniper rifle, automatic rifle, and high-precision rifle.
LOOK: #PresidentDuterte inspects rifles donated by China. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/VC7iT8WV9Z — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) June 28, 2017
Zhao said this was only the first batch. Another batch would be delivered in "several months." The night before, Zhao also handed to Duterte a P15-million check for Marawi rehabilitation.
"The donation of arms to the Armed Forces [of the Philippines] will contribute to the success in your battle against ISIS-related terrorists…The Chinese government and military forces will continue to firmly support your fight against terrorism," said the Chinese envoy.
The rifles will be sent to government forces battling terrorists in Marawi City, said Duterte in a chance interview.
With the "new era" of military ties between the Philippines and China, Zhao said China will "explore the possibility of joint exercises, sharing intelligence" on counter-terrorism.
In his speech, Duterte thanked China profusely for the donation.
"To Ambassador Zhao, please relay our sincerest thanks to President Xi Jinping and the government of the People's Republic of China for its military aid package I will receive today in behalf of the Philippine government," he said.
Duterte explained that the donation was the result of two agreements worth P590 million the country entered into with China when the Marawi crisis erupted.
The deals were for the provision of "military equipment to help in our campaign against ISIS-inspired terrorists holding up in Marawi," said the President.
AFP chief General Eduardo Año and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana formally accepted the donation from Zhao and expressed their gratitude in separate speeches.
Año highlighted that China's assistance was one among many efforts from the international community to help the Philippine government flush out terrorists from Marawi City.
Before giving his speech, Duterte inspected samples of the donated rifles laid out on a table in front of the stage.
Accompanied by Zhao, Lorenzana, and Año, Duterte even tried out the high-precision rifle by holding up its scope to his eye.
Duterte's gesture of appreciation, even gracing the turnover ceremony, is in stark contrast to how he recognized technical assistance from the United States for troops in Marawi.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.