Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, left, presents a P15-million check to President Rodrigo Duterte, center, and DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, right. In the background is Alan Cayetano, the DFA secretary. PCOO/Released

China exploring joint military drills with Philippines vs terrorism
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - June 28, 2017 - 11:29am

MANILA, Philippines — China is exploring joint military exercises with the Philippines, Beijing’s ambassador to Manila said on Wednesday, as he also announced several measures aimed at helping the Philippines fight terrorism.

Speaking at the ceremony for the turnover of Chinese military hardware to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, the Chinese ambassador, said Beijing would like to explore the possibility of holding joint military exercises and intelligence training with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a sign of how far the relations between the two nations have improved since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency last year.

Aside from the possibility of cooperation between the two nations’ security forces, Zhao also announced that another batch of military hardware was already on its way, and the Philippines could expect it in a few months.

Zhao was speaking at the ceremony for the turnover of military assistance that included TY-85 7.62mm sniper rifles, CS/LR4A high-precision rifles, and CQ-A5 5.56 automatic rifles. The shipment also came with 6 million rounds of ammunition, according to reports.

The Chinese ambassador said that terrorism is a common enemy of Manila and Beijing. This should make them face this problem together, Zhao said, as he introduced the idea of joint military training.

“Third, terrorism is the enemy both China and the Philippines are facing. It requires our two militaries to further enhance their cooperation in this area. The Chinese side would like to explore the possibility of joint training, intelligence sharing and joint military exercises in the area of fighting terrorism,” the Chinese envoy said.

The relationship between Manila and Beijing has greatly improved under the China-friendly Duterte despite territorial disputes in the South China Sea through which billions worth of trade passes.

Last year, a United Nations ruling invalidated much of Beijing’s expansive claim and sided with the Philippines, which initiated the proceedings.

Aside from prospect of a closer relationship between the two militaries, Zhao also announced that the guns and ammunition were just the first batch of Chinese security aid to the Philippines.

“The second batch is being prepared by the Chinese side and will be delivered in several months, and this is only the beginning,” he said.

China also donated P5 million for the families of soldiers who died or were wounded in battle, according to Zhao.

“I would like to announce the donation of P5 million to the families of the soldiers who were unfortunately killed in the battle of Marawi and to these wounded soldiers,” he said.

On Tuesday night, Zhao presented Duterte a check for P15 million meant to buttress the funds of the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the rehabilitation and relief in conflict-torn Marawi City.

Aside from aid, Beijing also assured the Philippine government of help in developing Mindanao to eradicate poverty, one of the root causes of terrorism, according to Zhao.

“China is ready to implement the important consensus reached by President Duterte and President Xi Jinping to give a helping hand to the overall development of the Philippines in terms of infrastructure, in terms of anti-poverty [measures]. Our cooperation will certainly cover the comprehensive economic and social development in Mindanao,” he said.

He added: “I’m sure Chinese participation in the overall development of Mindanao will help in the comprehensive settlement of the issue of terrorism.”

China gave assurances that it would continue to support Manila in its fight against terrorism.

Philippine security personnel are still engaged in a 37-day battle with Islamist militants in Marawi City. The rebels have proven particularly difficult to defeat despite occupying only a small pocket of the town.

The fighting has already claimed the lives of 290 militants, 70 security forces and 27 civilians. The civilian death toll is expected to rise as witness accounts indicate many civilians perished in the clashes that began on May 23.

The siege of Marawi City led to Duterte’s declaration of military rule in Mindanao. 

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