China pushes joint training, intel gathering with Philippines

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
China pushes joint training, intel gathering with Philippines

Philippine Air Force personnel unload crates of rifles and ammunition given by China during a turnover ceremony at Clark Air Base in Pampanga yesterday. Right photo shows President Duterte inspecting one of the rifles. Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines - China yesterday pushed for joint military training and intelligence-gathering exercises with the Philippines in the fight against terrorism.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua stressed this last night during the turnover of donation of military assistance from the Chinese government at Clark Field in Mabalacat, Pampanga.

“The Chinese side also wants to explore the possibility of joint training, intelligence and joint exercises in the fighting in the area of terrorism,” he said.

Zhao also announced China is giving an additional P5 million for the families of soldiers killed and wounded in the battle of Marawi City, on top of the P15 million it earlier provided for rehabilitation of the war-torn city.

President Rodrigo Duterte received the military assistance from China’s Ministry of National Defense, which included sets of three different firearms, a TY-85 7.62mm sniper rifle, CS/LR4A high precision rifle and CQ-A5 5.56 automatic rifle and ammunition. 

Before the ceremonial turnover, Zhao gave President Duterte a short briefing about the firearms. 

Accompanied by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and top military officials, Duterte thanked Beijing for its help in the country’s efforts to fight terrorism.

Citing the renewed vigor in Philippines-China relations, Duterte stressed the importance of the military assistance to the country. He also cited Beijing’s help in terms of infrastructure.

As a result, the government entered into two agreements to turn over P519 million worth of military equipment in the campaign against Islamic militants holding out in Marawi City.

Duterte, who has extended the hand of friendship to China, then extended the Philippines’ gratitude to Beijing through Zhao for the military aid package. 

Duterte’s independent foreign policy has distanced the country from its long-time defense ally the United States.

Duterte said the assistance will “strengthen commitment to support each other during times of need but also highlights the dawn of the new era between Philippine and Chinese relations.”

Duterte said he saw China’s offer as a sign of goodwill with the Philippines.

In the same speech, the President also opened the doors for assistance from allies abroad in a bid to get more help for the rebuilding of Marawi overrun by self-styled local terrorists.

“As troops wrap up our operations in Marawi, I also welcome our international partners looking forward to rebuilding this city. This invitation extends to our allies who share with us the principles of goodwill and non-interference in our domestic affairs,” he said.

New era of friendship

In his speech, Zhao underscored the importance of the handover of equipment from Beijing and its significance in the improved relations between the two countries’ armed forces.

“It is a demonstration of our growing bilateral relationship. It is also a demonstration of a new era of friendly and cooperative relationship between our two militaries,” Zhao said. 

“The fact that President Duterte is present at this handover ceremony highlights the great importance of the bilateral relations between the two countries,” he added.

Zhao also lauded Duterte for his “friendly policies” towards China.

“The donation is not big but it’s big in a sense that it marks a new era between our two militaries. And it has come at a right time,” he said.

“At this challenging and critical juncture, the donations of arms to the Armed Forces will contribute to the success of your battle against the ISIS-related terrorists,” Zhao said.

He also announced the Chinese government and its military forces will continue to firmly support the Duterte administration’s fight against terrorism.

He added that fighting terrorism is very important, citing the need to address the root causes of terrorism such as poverty.

“China is ready to implement the important consensus reached by President Duterte and President Xi Jinping to give a helping hand to overall development of the Philippines,” he added.

Zhao also vowed the cooperation will cover development in Mindanao, aimed at helping the comprehensive settlement of the issue of terrorism. – With Edith Regalado

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