China turned over 590 million pesos (S$16 million) worth of rifles and ammunition yesterday to help Philippine troops fighting Muslim militants in the southern city of Marawi, and proposed holding joint military exercises to combat the spread of terrorism in the region.
In ceremonies held at a former United States military base north of Manila, President Rodrigo Duterte received wooden crates filled with over 3,000 Chinese-made assault and sniper rifles, and about six million bullets.
"The donation is not big, but it is big in the sense that it marks a new era of relations between our two militaries, and it comes at the right time," said Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, citing ongoing clashes between government troops and Muslim militants in the southern city of Marawi.
He said China is sending a second tranche in the coming months. "This is only the beginning," he added.
Mr Zhao said Beijing wants to take military relations with Manila further through "joint training, intelligence sharing and joint military exercises in the area of terrorism".
In accepting the donation, Mr Duterte said it "highlights the dawn of a new era in Philippine-Chinese relations". He expressed hope that China would also help in his government's efforts to rebuild Marawi.
On Tuesday, Mr Zhao donated 15 million pesos to help in relief efforts for about 200,000 people displaced by the fighting.
The Chinese assistance comes weeks after the US, upon the Philippine military's request, sent special forces units and surveillance planes to Marawi. The Philippines is also conducting joint naval patrols with Indonesia and Malaysia to seal off the waters between the Sulu archipelago and Sabah to terrorists.