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China to supply PH with guns on easy terms

This picture taken on March 6, 2014 shows a SWAT policeman check a gun confiscated by police in Guiyang, southwest China's Guizhou province. Police in China have seized a huge cache of weapons including 15,000 guns and 120,000 knives from an illegal arms ring and detained 15 suspects, state media reported on April 14.  AFP PHOTO / STR

This picture taken on March 6, 2014 shows a SWAT policeman check a gun confiscated by police in Guiyang, southwest China’s Guizhou province. Police in China have seized a huge cache of weapons including 15,000 guns and 120,000 knives from an illegal arms ring and detained 15 suspects, state media reported on April 14. AFP PHOTO / STR

China has offered to provide firearms to Philippine security forces in an apparent move to further bolster its good relations with the Duterte administration amid the territorial dispute between the two countries over the West Philippine Sea.

This was disclosed by President Duterte on Sunday night in a speech before personnel of the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac City.

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Mr. Duterte said that he had decided to accept China’s offer under concessional terms.

It was not clear, however, what kind of firearms the Philippine government would acquire from China as Mr. Duterte did not provide details of the arms deal.

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“China is pressing me. The firearms are already available for me to receive. They are really prodding me,” the President said.

He said he had directed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to send military officials to China to formally receive the firearms, which will be payable over 25 years.

“We don’t need to ask from others because they’re willing to give it,” he said.

“This isn’t free, but it’s actually a grant payable in 25 years, that’s practically giving … It’s obvious that China wanted to give us (firearms),” he added.

But there is no timetable yet for the planned acquisition of firearms from China, the Department of National Defense (DND) said on Monday.

Offers to sell

Raymundo Elefante, Defense Undersecretary for Finance, Munitions, Installations and Materiel, said in an interview that Chinese companies had made offers to sell firearms but the DND will still have to determine which offer was the best.

“There is no timetable unless we go there, but there is no date yet,” he said.

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Elefante said no visit to China has been scheduled so far to check on the offered firearms.

Lorenzana said the military was also considering purchasing sniper rifles from Russia, adding that the Philippine Army and Marines would undertake a study to see whether a deal could be forged.

Lorenzana visited Russia last week on Mr. Duterte’s order to meet defense officials, the first-ever visit by a Philippine defense chief to Moscow since diplomatic ties were established in 1976, officials said.

“If their sniper rifles are superior as they claim, we may decide to acquire,” Lorenzana told The Associated Press (AP). “The army and marines will conduct tests and determine how many they may require.”

Mr. Duterte reached out to China and Russia after taking office in July while taking a hostile stance with the Obama administration after the latter criticized his deadly war on drugs.

The Philippines has heavily depended on the US, its treaty ally, for weapons, ships and aircraft for years, although it has turned to other countries for defense equipment as it struggled to modernize its underfunded military in recent years.

Under Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, relations with China were strained over disputed South China Sea territories, especially after Aquino brought the disputes to international arbitration. China ignored the arbitration case and the eventual ruling handed in July, which invalidated China’s sweeping territorial claims. —WITH A REPORT FROM AP

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