Duterte uses phrase for Phl-US exercises to affirm friendship with China
President Rodrigo Duterte reviews the troops during the 121st anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army on March 20, 2018.
AP/Bullit Marquez
Duterte uses phrase for Phl-US exercises to affirm friendship with China
(Philstar.com) - April 10, 2018 - 5:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — As President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the 2018 Boao Forum for Asia in China's southern Hainan province, he reaffirmed the Philippines' partnership with Beijing.

This pronouncement comes as US President Donald Trump imposes tariffs that would escalate a trade dispute with China.

Duterte, in his speech before the regional forum, said that the Philippines and China stand together in the war on criminality and drugs.

"We are shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Make no mistake: there can be no progress without stability in Asia’s lands and waters," Duterte said.

Incidentally, Duterte used the term "shoulder to shoulder" which is also the phrase used to describe the Philippines' security cooperation with the US.

The Philippines and the US conduct annual joint military exercises called "Balikatan" which literally means "shoulder to shoulder."

Change of 'shoulder to shoulder' partner?

Despite the military assistance that China had provided the Philippines for the Marawi siege last year, the US remains the country's lone treaty ally through the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

In June last year, Duterte thanked China for donating around 3,000 rifles and 6 million pieces of ammunition to the Philippine military with its fight against ISIS-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.

The BRP Tarlac in Casiguran, Aurora for the Balikatan exercises in 2017. Philstar.com/Efigenio Toledo IV

In October 2017, Duterte was quoted saying that China was the only country that provided assistance to the Philippines during the battle in Marawi.

"It was only China who gave it on time and plenty," Duterte said.

RELATED: Fact check: Duterte's claims on US aid to military

What Duterte did not take into consideration was that the US provided a major grant of arms and munitions worth at least P250 million in May 2017, around the same time the Marawi conflict started.

"In May 2017, a major grant of 200 Glock pistols, 300 M4 carbines, 100 grenade launchers, four mini-guns and individual operator gear worth P250 million was delivered," US Embassy press attache Molly Koscina said.

Aside from rockets and munitions, the US also provided surveillance capabilities, training, information and aircraft to the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the Marawi siege.

In June 2017, the US turned over M4 carbines and rubber boats to the Philippine Marine Corps. US Embassy, handout

Former US Secretary of State said that the equipment includes a few Cessna aircraft and a few drones that helped the Philippines battle "an enemy that fights in a way that most people have never had to deal with."

Philippine Ambassador to the Philippines Babe Romualdez himself said that the US spy planes were critical to the military operations in Marawi.

"These surveillance aircraft are critical to the ongoing military operations in Marawi as they can get aerial images on battlefield positions and other vital information that can be used to finally drive out the Maute terrorist group and their ISIS cohorts," Romualdez said in a column published in The STAR on July 19, 2017.

The Australian government also sent two surveillance aircraft to assist the Philippine military in the Marawi siege last year. Two AP-3C Orion aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force provided surveillance support to the AFP.

As Duterte reaffirms the Philippines' partnership with China against terrorism, Beijing has yet to show what kind of military assistance it can provide to Manila aside from the rifles and ammunition donated to the Philippines last year.

RELATED: China offers $500-M arms loan to Philippines

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