The Philippines and China appeared to set aside their territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) for a moment as the Department of National Defense (DND) officially received the first batch of a military grant with a total worth of RMB (Renminbi) 130 million or P1 billion from the East Asian giant on Wednesday, Feb. 9.
DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana personally received the first batch of donations worth RMB 76 million or P615 million from Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian during a ceremonial handover of the “gratis” or free equipment at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. They arrived in the country last January 16.
The donation comprises of various military equipment such as rescue and relief equipment, drone systems, detectors, water purification vehicles, ambulances, firetrucks, x-ray machines, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robots, bomb disposal suits and transport vehicles; and engineering equipment such as backhoes, dumptrucks, forklifts, and earthmovers.
Meanwhile, the second batch of donation worth RMB 54 million or P437 million will be delivered "at a later date."
“Today, we reaffirm this historical bond between our nations through this handover of gratis equipment from the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China to the Department of National Defense of the Philippines,” Lorenzana said.
“This military grant from China speaks volumes on how our two nations can be civil, diplomatic, and friends despite some issues on territorial claims,” he added.
The Defense Chief said that under the terms and conditions of the military grant, China will also support the capacity building activities of the Presidential Security Guard (PSG), the rehabilitation of Marawi City, and other humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts.
“Even as a non-traditional partner, China paid special attention to Marawi at the height of the rebellion in 2017 by providing P370 million worth of firearms and ammunition. We are happy that after almost five years, Marawi has risen from its destruction with peace and order now in place for Filipinos who consider it home,” Lorenzana noted.
“Thus, this grant will go a long way in ushering development in the Islamic city and making it even more vibrant and productive than before,” he stated.
The military grant was a product of Lorenzana’s commitment to Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe “to sustain closer cooperation between our nations amid the WPS dispute.”
China has claimed and built artificial islands in the WPS, a part of the vast South China Sea where the Philippines exercises sovereignty and has sovereign rights.
Back in April 2021, Lorenzana and Huang even traded barbs when hundreds of Chinese maritime militia were spotted at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef and other reefs inside the WPS.
“I am no fool,” Lorenzana said at the time when Huang reasoned out that the Chinese vessels spotted inside the country’s territory were only seeking shelter from bad weather. “The weather has been good so far, so they have no reason to stay there. These vessels should be on their way out.”
But Lorenzana and Huang appeared to have mended ties since then.
“As partners, Philippines gains much in trade, infrastructure, technology, and people-to-people exchange. Indeed, there is more we can achieve by working together,” Lorenzana said during the ceremony.
The event was also attended by China’s acting Defense and Armed Forces Attaché Dou Xudong, Secretary to the Defense Attache Major Lin Xinhong, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino, other delegates of the Chinese Diplomatic Corps, and DND.