PH military gets $14-M Christmas grant from China

MANILA, Philippines – Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua on Monday, December 19, turned over a list of defense equipment to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana where the military could choose items that are worth up to 100 million yuan ($14.4 million or P720 million*).

Lorenzana, who joined the meeting between the ambassador and President Rodrigo Duterte, said the AFP may get small arms, fast boats, and night vision goggles. 

"Tinanong niya sa amin kung ano 'yung kailangan namin na puwede nilang ibigay (He asked if we have requirements that they can provide). Bigay ito, bigay (This is a donation), worth 100 million yuan," Lorenzana told reporters on Tuesday, December 20. 

"Mayroon silang listahan. Nasa amin na. Titingnan namin kung ano ang equipment na nandoon na puwede. Puwede siguro kami kumuha ng small arms, mga fast boats, mga night vision goggles. Kaunti lang ito, $14.4 million worth," Lorenzana added.

(They have a list. We already have it. We will see which equipment in the list will be useful to us. I think we can get some small arms, a number of fast boats, and some night vision goggles. It's not much, $14.4 million worth.) 

Lorenzana said they will finalize the list before yearend and then submit it to the Chinese embassy. A technical working group from the Philippines will be sent to China to look at the equipment. 

The equipment should be expected in the first half of 2017, Lorenzana said. 

PH, China cooperation

It is only the beginning. Lorenzana said China also committed to give the military a soft loan for some big-ticket items needed in its fight against terrorism and illegal drugs. 

"They want to help us fight terrorism and drugs. Tutulungan nila si (They will help the) President. Sabi niya kay Presidente kagabi (He told the President last night): 'I know your problems in terrorism. I know your problems in drugs. We would like to help you," Lorenzana said.

Duterte in a speech on Monday also boasted about a $15-billion grant from China to taunt the US for its non-renewal of $400 million in aid to the Philippines. The audience included new US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, with whom he also had a meeting on Monday. (READ: Duterte rants about US insult in front of new envoy)

Duterte met with the Chinese envoy after his speech. 

The Duterte administration marks a new beginning in the relationship between the Philippines and China after a tense period of bitter word wars and the legal battle over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) under the previous Aquino administration. 

Duterte threatened to set aside the arbitration ruling that generally upheld the Philippines' rights over its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and proposed to share the resources there with China.

Silence over the West PH Sea

China welcomed these pronouncements. But they were criticized by experts as well as officials who labored to win the country's case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

In the meeting on Monday, Duterte and the Chinese ambassador did not discuss issues concerning the West Philippine Sea despite tension over several issues such as China's installation of weapons on artificial islands and its seizure of a US Navy underwater drone, which it has since returned.

"Hindi namin pinag-usapan (We did not talk about it)," said Lorenzana.

The Philippines did not file a protest against these actions inside the country's EEZ. At best, Lorenzana issued a statement saying the incident was "very troubling" because it risked a confrontation between the 2 military superpowers near the Philippine mainland. –

*$1 = P50, Y1 = P7.18