China offers more aid for Philippine anti-terror fight
Beijing says it will help rebuild war-torn Marawi in Mindanao once order is restored
China on Thursday offered more aid to the Philippines and vowed to help the country rebuild in its conflict-torn city of Marawi as it hailed the fast improvement of bilateral ties.
The offer by Foreign Minister Wang Yi came after China on Wednesday turned over the first batch of military equipment to the Philippines to help the country fight terrorists inspired by Islamic State.
The weapons shipment, worth about 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million), “highlights the dawn of a new era in Philippine-Chinese relations”, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said.
In talks with his Philippine counterpart Alan Peter Cayetano, who is in Beijing for a four-day trip, Wang said China would continue to provide assistance to Manila and would help rebuild the rebel-held areas after peace and stability was restored.
“The Philippines has achieved significant progress in its terrorism crackdown,” Wang said. “China will stand firmly with you in this fight.”
Relations between China and the Philippines have improved since Duterte began to reject Manila’s traditional ally Washington and seek Beijing’s support, putting aside territorial disputes over the South China Sea in exchange for trade and economic assistance from China since taking office last year.
Cayetano said after the talks that the two sides would increase cooperation in tourism, investment, infrastructure and technology, as well as in Duterte’s battle against illegal drugs.
Extremists inspired by Islamic State have besieged Marawi on Mindanao Island since May 23. Nearly 400 people have been killed, including 290 militants and 70 troops. Most of Marawi’s 200,000 residents have fled and much of the city is in ruins.
Li Wei, a Beijing-based terrorism analyst, said the Philippines lacked military equipment for its fight against extremists.
“Sometimes we can see that the equipment owned by the Philippine military is less advanced compared to the terrorists, and this has restrained [its] counter-terrorism capability,” he said, adding that China should be able to help with the problem.
The talks between Wang and Cayetano came as China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations near completion of a framework for a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea.
China and the Philippines agreed to enhance communications over the disputed waters and to establish a mechanism for cooperation between their coastguards, Wang said.
He warned that any attempt to “return to the old path” of confrontation between the two countries “will only lead to a dead end and harm the interests of Philippine people”.
Cayetano, who was appointed in May as the top diplomat for the Philippines, began his visit to China on Wednesday, when he met State Councillor Yang Jiechi.