The Philippines has been seeking modern weapons and small arms to step up combat against ISIS-linked Islamists, ever since Duterte assumed office in June 2016. However, Washington’s refusal to sell assault rifles, over concerns about the country’s human rights record amid the ongoing war on drugs, has forced Duterte to seek new suppliers. Manila, which has long depended on the US for weapons, turned to China and Russia to fill the gap.
“The fact is, the Americans really do not honor their word,” Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday, explaining his decision to look for alternative partners. Beijing and Moscow answered the call, even agreeing to provide some of the weapons for free, the Philippines leader told a group of farmers and fishermen gathered at a presidential palace reception.
“So I went to China... to ask [Chinese President Xi Jinping] to help us: ‘I need arms,’” Duterte said during his long speech. “Xi Jinping said, ‘No problem. Do not pay me, it's all yours.’"
“So I went to Russia... ‘I came here to ask for your help! It's okay, I'll give it to you, free,’” Duterte paraphrased President Vladimir Putin’s alleged response during their meeting last year.
Following Duterte’s visit to Moscow in May of last year, Russia indeed dispatched a modest weapons shipment to the Asian nation. In October last year, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu personally oversaw the delivery of around 5,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and roughly one million rounds of ammunition, that was donated as part of a new relationship between Moscow and Manila. In addition to the machine guns and ammo, Russia’s Pacific Fleet also delivered 20 military trucks for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Beijing also dispatched arms to Manila, donating thousands of assault and hundreds of sniper rifles, as well as ammunition, to the Philippines as a gesture of “friendly and cooperative relations” in June and October of last year.
However, none of this means Manila is seeking to distance itself from Washington and join any kind of military bloc with Beijing or Moscow that might somehow threaten the US, the Philippine leader emphasized.
“There is no military alliance. I’m not prepared for that,” he said. “To this day Russia and China have yet to ask even to ask for a piece of paper or pencil.”
“At least, if ever my airplane explodes, or if some roadside bomb explodes, maybe you can ask the CIA,” Duterte noted in a mixture of Filipino and English, not ruling out that some in the US might find his arguments unconvincing. “That’s my experience. I’m sharing it with you.”
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