Russia to donate 5,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Philippines as Duterte's outreach bears fruit

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Russia would provide about 5,000 assault rifles in a deal to be signed this month.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Russia would provide about 5,000 assault rifles in a deal to be signed this month.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (REUTERS) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Wednesday (Oct 11) that Russia would donate defence hardware to support the Philippine military's fight against pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, who he said could regroup and attack "anywhere and everywhere".

Mr Duterte said Russia would provide about 5,000 assault rifles in a deal to be signed this month, and the Philippine army would no longer have to use second-hand arms.

"We will have the Kalashnikov," he said in a speech to troops, adding that Russia wanted to keep the donation secret.

Moscow's gift would follow China's donation of more than 6,000 assault rifles and 100 sniper rifles, among the fruits of Mr Duterte's efforts to form partnerships with two arms-producing powers that are rivals to the United States.

The United States has for decades been the Philippines' defence treaty ally and its biggest source of hardware and training, providing about US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) in equipment since 2000.

Mr Duterte has made no secret of his animosity towards Washington and his disdain for the US military alliance.

A senior defence official told Reuters that the Russian weapons would arrive later this month, when Russia's Defence Minister attends a regional meeting. The rifles would be accompanied by millions of rounds of ammunition and dozens of army trucks.

Five Russian warships were due to visit Manila to deliver the equipment, the official said. Four have visited the country this year, in two separate visits.

Mr Duterte said the military needed to be properly equipped to handle ISIS loyalists who have established a dangerous foothold in Mindanao in the south.

"They will not disappear, they will regroup anywhere and everywhere," Mr Duterte said.