China’s donation of P370 million pesos worth of firearms and ammunition to the armed forces is a “charm offensive” designed to help the Filipino military battle Islamic State, (IS)-inspired terrorist groups, a security analyst said Thursday.
Chester Cabalza, a University of the Philippines (UP) professor, told the Inquirer that China has found a way to win the hearts of Filipinos who are obviously pro-US despite President Duterte’s pivot to China. He said Manila should not be distracted from protecting its national interests.
“They (Chinese) are diversifying their efforts. They ask themselves why can’t they win the hearts of the Filipinos and one issue is the South China Sea. So one way of doing it is through this charm offensive,” Cabalza said.
Cabalza said China could not offer counterterrorism expertise to fight the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups because the Chinese do not have any experience in modern terrorism issues, which was why they gave defense materiel.
Receiving China’s donation to the military in Clark Field, Pampanga on Wednesday was among the first public appearances of President Duterte after a week-long hiatus.
China’s donation was described as “gratis.”
Cabalza acknowledged that the public would look at the donation with the country’s maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea.
He said there was nothing wrong with accepting China’s help “if it is done in good faith.”
“But government should stick to our national interests at the end of the day,” he said.
The Armed Forces acquired more than 50,000 brand new units of M-4 rifles in 2014 from Remington Outdoor Company, a US-based manufacturer. The government then shelled out P1.9 billion through public bidding.
Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana said in a speech at the turnover of the Chinese firearms that the Filipino people would be the “ultimate beneficiaries of Chinese magnanimity.”
Lorenzana accepted the donation on the behalf of the Filipino people, “with a deep sense of gratitude as well as renewed sense of hope for our nation’s safety and security.”
“We assure you that these donations will be put to productive utilization by our Armed Forces,” Lorenzana said.
By Nikko Dizon