China turned over on Thursday P169 million worth of military hardware as donation to the Philippines at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.
The ceremony, led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, saw the donation of 3,000 assault rifles, ammunition, and accessories from the Asian superpower to the Philippines.
The firearms will be used by the Philippine National Police, which also received another 3,000 rifles donated by China last June. They will replace the 26,000 units of M-4 rifles the police wanted to buy from the United States.
“It has taken them too long to deliver so we are lucky that the Chinese government stepped in and provided the firearms,” Lorenzana said.
During the event, Chinese envoy Zhao repeatedly emphasized the need for mutual trust and sincerity in pursuing better ties between China and the Philippines
“China is a sincere friend, it is sincere partner,” he said.
The donations come even as the two nations are locked in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
China has declared ownership of about 85 percent of the sea with its nine-dash line claim. This claim was invalidated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague 2016, but China has refused to acknowledge the ruling.
Speaking to media at the event, Zhao praised President Rodrigo Duterte for bridging the gap between the two nations.
“If President Duterte has not decided to rekindle our friendship. If he has not decided to promote friendly and cooperative relationship with China, it would not have been possible, for me to stand here, to donate these arms and ammunitions,” Zhao said.
Zhao added, it is possible for both Philippines and China to trust each other even amid the territorial dispute.
The Duterte administration has seen friendlier relations with China. Since his state visit to China in October 2016, Beijing has given Manila some P5.5 billion in grants, humanitarian aid, and military hardware.
The Chinese ambassador said China has been supplying firearms and weapons to other nations as well– including countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, which have also contested China’s territorial claims.
“It demonstrates that China has no intention at all, to settle it by force. otherwise we would not have given or sold weapons to claimant states,” he said.
Zhao said China wants to work with the Philippine military and said China’s army, the People’s Liberation Army is offering to do joint exercises on counter terrorism and the drug war.
Both Zhao and Lorenzana also brushed off concerns about Chinese ships spotted recently near the sandbar of the Philippine- occupied Pagasa island.
“It’s quite natural for you to see some of the boats, fishing boats to be there. they are carrying their daily fishing. You don’t have to be alarmed, and both Chinese and the Filipino sides have a clear understanding of what they are doing,” Zhao said.
Lorenzana said the presence of Chinese ships did not mean China was doing illegal activities or harassing other people in the area.
“They are just there, to also, to maybe to pursue their mission, according to the claims of the Chinese. So we are managing the conflict there.”
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