CHINA has pledged 150 million renminbi (RMB) or about P1.15 billion in grants to the Philippines for the relief and rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.
The pledge was made by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on Wednesday.
In his remarks during a joint news conference with Duterte, Li said China was supportive of the Philippine government’s efforts to combat terrorism.
“In my talks with Mr. President, we also talked about the cooperation between our two countries regarding defense affairs and counter-terrorism. The Chinese side supports the efforts made by Mr. President and the Philippine government in upholding the security and stability of your country,” Li said.
“The Chinese government will provide 150 million RMB Yuan of grants for the rebuilding and improvement of livelihood in Marawi to demonstrate the support of the Chinese people,” he added.
The pledge comes nearly a month after the end of a five-month battle with the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute terrorists, who occupied parts of Marawi, the country’s Islamic capital.
The agreement for the grant, titled “Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation,” was signed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd and China’s Vice Commerce Minister Fu Ziying in the presence of Duterte and Li.
The Chinese premier expressed confidence that the Duterte administration would be able to complete Marawi’s rehabilitation “at a very early date.”
“We have full confidence that under your leadership, Mr. President, and the leadership of your government, the rebuilding of Marawi will be completed at – in a very early date and the local people will embrace even better life,” Li said.
During the expanded bilateral meeting with Li, Duterte highlighted China’s dedication to support his government when it “badly” needed the help of other countries in stopping the armed conflict in Marawi.
The Philippine government liberated Marawi City on October 17, after state troops neutralized terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
Duterte proudly relayed to Li that Hapilon was killed using one of the rifles donated by China to the Philippines.
“We look forward to a more robust, more productive relations in the days to come. Let me also assure you that during the critical stage of the Marawi incident, where we needed help badly, it was China who responded immediately to our cry for help,” Duterte said.
“I am happy to report to you that one of the rifles that you gave us killed Hapilon, who was the leader or the emir that they (IS) named in the Philippines,” he added.
Li praised the Philippines for successfully combating terror acts perpetrated by the militants in Marawi City.
“The Philippines, in terms of upholding national security and fighting terrorist crimes, has played a very important role. China and other members of the international community formally support the fight against terrorism in all forms. Your victory against terrorism is result of your own efforts,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said more than P50 billion would be needed to finance the repair and construction of government and private infrastructure.
On June 27, the Chinese government donated P15 million for the relief operations in Marawi.
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua presented the check to President Duterte as a sign of the “flourishing partnership” between the Philippines and China.
As of September, China has donated a total of P85 million, according to Lorenzana.
Also on Wednesday, the Philippines and China signed 14 deals that involve infrastructure projects, including a massive drug rehabilitation center.
The deals include Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation; Memorandum of Understanding on Jointly Promoting on Second Basket of Key Infrastructure Projects Cooperation; Exchange of Letters on Project of Dangerous Drugs Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers; Exchange of Letters on Project of Two Bridges Across Pasig River; Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation on Industrial Parks Development; Memorandum of Understanding on Jointly Promoting the Philippine National Railways South Long Hall Project Cooperation; Financing Cooperation Agreement on Chico River Pump Irrigation Project and New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, among others.
“We express our gratitude to [Chinese] President Xi Jinping and kindly extend to him my warm feelings and including the Filipino people. We are gratified by the many things you’ve done so far. You have proven to be a good friend of the Philippines,” Duterte told Li.
“We look forward to a more robust, more productive relations in the days to come. Maybe in the future, [the]Philippines would also show its debt of gratitude to China. And for all of the fundings of the public works, bridges and all, there is nothing more we can ask from your friendship,” he added.
Li said the time has come for China and the Philippines to accelerate cooperation.
“We are now working together to sustain the momentum of China-Philippines relations and try to make up for the time or the good opportunities we missed in the past. We are accelerating the implementation of the relevant cooperation projects, and that is something that requires the joint efforts of both sides,” he said.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI