PH open to military drills with China

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THE Philippines is open to holding joint military exercises with China, Malacañang said on Thursday as Manila seeks to quell the threat posed by Islamic State-linked fighters.

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Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Maria Paz Banaag said President Rodrigo Duterte had been vocal in his desire to enhance relations with China, particularly in the areas of security and defense.

“The relationship of China and the Philippines has improved during the President’s time. The Philippines wanted to engage with China not only on economics and trade but also in security and defense, if and when,” Banaag told reporters. “We welcome whatever assistance that the Chinese government can provide,” she added.

On Wednesday, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said China would help the Philippines in its fight against terrorism. He added that Beijing was exploring the possibility of the Chinese military holding joint training and exercises and intelligence sharing with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Terrorism is the enemy both China and the Philippines are facing. It requires our two militaries to further enhance cooperation in this area,” Zhao said during the turnover of Chinese military assistance to the Philippines in Pampanga.

Asked how China’s latest pronouncement would affect the defense relations between the Philippines and the United States, Banaag said: “We cannot comment yet on how this would effect because it’s not yet there, insofar as the treaties with the United Stated is concerned.”

Duterte had earlier sought the assistance of other countries to rebuild Marawi City.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the firearms donated by China will be used by troops fighting members of the Maute Group in Marawi.

“I’m not sure what the timeline of the Army is but rest assured [the firearms]will come into play before this conflict in Marawi ends,” Padilla told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The military assistance from China consists of 90 units of sniper rifles, 3,000 units of M4 and six million rounds of assorted ammunition.

with DEMPSEY REYES

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