CHINESE Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua vowed on Wednesday to help the Philippines in its fight against terrorism amid the continuing military offensives against Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute bandits.
In his speech during the ceremonial turnover of China’s “urgent” military assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Pampanga, Zhao said the Chinese government was committed to helping the Philippines in combating terrorism.
“The donation of arms to the Armed Forces of the Philippines will contribute to the success of your battle against the ISIS-related terrorists,” Zhao said, using another name for IS.
“Mr. President I would like to take the opportunity to announce… [that]the Chinese government and the Chinese military forces will continue to fully support your fight against terrorism and we’re looking forward to enhancement of cooperation in the areas of fighting terrorism bilaterally,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the donations consisted of rifles and ammunition worth 50 million yuan.
Zhao said a second batch of military donations was being prepared by the Chinese and would be delivered in the coming months.
“This is only the beginning… Terrorism is the enemy both China and the Philippines are facing that requires our two militaries to further enhance cooperation in this area,” he said.
“The Chinese side would like to explore the possibility of joint training, intelligence sharing and joint military exercises in the area of fighting terrorism,” Zhao added.
The Chinese envoy also announced that his country would donate P5 million to the families of soldiers killed in the battle in Marawi, and to the wounded soldiers.
President Rodrigo Duterte thanked the Chinese government which he said had expressed willingness “to unconditionally help” the Philippines amid the ongoing Marawi crisis.
“Seven months after my visit, terrorist groups advocating the [IS] ideology launched a rebellion in Marawi City. Our troops valiantly fought to retake the city. China reiterated its offer to help. As a result, our governments formally entered into two agreements where China committed to turn over P590 million worth of military equipment to help in our campaign against ISIS-inspired terrorist holding up in Marawi,” Duterte said.
“To Ambassador Zhao, please relate our sincerest thanks to President Xi Jinping and the government of the People’s Republic of China for its military aid…This is not only to strengthen our country’s commitment to support each other during times of need, but also highlights the dawn of a new era in Philippine-Chinese relations,” he added.
Assistance welcome, but…
The President also sought assistance from the country’s international partners for the rebuilding of war-torn Marawi City, as long as there were no strings attached.
“This invitation extends to our allies who share with us the principles of goodwill and non-interference in our domestic affairs,” Duterte said.
“Through the unrelenting efforts of the brave men and women of the AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) and the assistance of our friends and allies, I am confident that we can end this dark episode and move on to restoring peace and order throughout Mindanao. You know, we are fighting an enemy without or whose bankruptcy in their mind and heart is very clear,” he added.
Earlier, the Chinese government donated P15 million for the rebuilding effort in Marawi City.
In a statement, the Palace said the donation “will significantly augment the resources of the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)” for health and welfare operations in Marawi and other areas.
It said 264,000 displaced individuals had sought refuge in areas outside of Marawi City since the fighting in the Islamic City broke out on May 23.
“The said donation from China to the Philippines is an example of the flourishing partnership between the two countries and their shared commitment towards sustainable peace in the region,” the statement said.
Duterte to visit Marawi
Duterte earlier on Wednesday said he would visit the besieged Islamic city of Marawi this Friday.
“I think I’ll go there on Friday. It’s about too late in the day to be hesitating to go there. I will go there,” Duterte said in a speech during the celebration of the 120th founding anniversary of the Presidential Security Group.
“You know, I cannot just sit on my a** diyan sa opisina ko na hirap ‘yung tao doon [in the office when the people are suffering],” the President added.
Duterte lamented that the “fractured ideology” of terrorists to destroy and kill innocent civilians had infiltrated Philippine territory.
“Well, they are not members of the Geneva Convention (on armed conflict). They are just plain bandits, gangsters, and what they really want is just to kill. And if you want to destroy us, we will also destroy you,” the President said.
Duterte, who was last seen in public on Tuesday when he visited Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities, said he had been visiting military camps to boost the morale of government troops, who have so far suffered 71 deaths since violence erupted on May 23.
The battle for the Islamic City of Marawi has been raging for more than a month now, with martial law imposed over the entire Mindanao.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the government counted 397 deaths in Marawi – 299 terrorists, 71 government troops and 27 civilians.
During the “Mindanao Hour” Palace news briefing, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said the number of civilians killed in the ongoing Marawi clash could “significantly increase” as more killings had yet to be verified by the military.
Padilla said the military got hold of footage showing the terrorists carrying out executions.
The death toll arising from these killings was not included in the official figure on civilians killed, which stands at 27.
“We are not certain on exactly how many civilians [have been killed]because the number you have now, which is 27, may increase significantly once we are able to validate all these information,” Padilla told reporters.
“There have been a significant number [of slain civilians]seen in the video but again we could not include many of these [to the official death toll]because we have not validated or authenticated [this]information. Until such time, we will remain with those numbers,” he added.
Padilla said the terrorists who laid siege to Marawi took footage of some of their killings supposedly to gain recognition from the IS, to which they had pledged allegiance.
“Whatever the objective of the terrorists from inside – either to scare people or to communicate across other members of the country of their extreme and radical ways – has been achieved because of that,” he said.