China has agreed to invest 100 million yuan — more than $14 million — in new equipment for the Philippine police to be used in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ongoing campaign against drug crime.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced earlier this week that China had agreed to provide Manila with a variety of new equipment, including “small arms, boats, and night vision goggles.” China reportedly requested that Philippine officials provide a list of items that they believe useful in targeting and arresting drug criminals.
“We have a list. We already have it. We will see which equipment in the list will be useful to us. I think we can get some small arms, a number of fast boats, and some night vision goggles. It’s not much, $14.4 million worth,” Lorenzana told reporters. “They want to help us fight terrorism and drugs. They will help the president.”
Lorenzana added that China was open to offering the Philippines a $500 million loan.
The offering follows months of alarm in the Philippines as Duterte has made his key campaign promise, the eradication of drug crime in the nation, the centerpiece of his presidency. Duterte has repeatedly said he would publicly support police who engage in extrajudicial killings against drug suspects and has even claimed to be personally responsible for killing drug criminals as mayor of Davao City, an office he held for over 20 years before becoming president.
Duterte has stated that Chinese drug traffickers play a significant role in the distribution of “shabu,” or methamphetamine, in the Philippines, calling out well-known drug lords by name. He has refused, however, to blame the Chinese government for not doing enough to prevent its citizens from wreaking havoc in his country. In a statement, Duterte’s presidential office said the contrary this week — that Beijing cannot be expected to stop all drug criminals and that the Communist Party of China is onboard with helping Duterte vanquish these criminals.
“Many of those running the drug trade are Chinese triads, which are criminal syndicates. These are not government officials,” a statement published by Reuters read. “China has strict anti-drug laws, which carries even the penalty of execution when caught.” The Philippines no longer engages in capital punishment, though Duterte has said he would kill up to six people a day if the legislature reinstated it.
The $14.4 million gift announcement follows yet another tirade against the United States from Duterte, who lit into America’s Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) for stating earlier this week that poverty aid to the Philippines would be contingent upon Duterte respecting international human rights norms.
“Shut up, shut up,” Duterte insisted. “I do not need your assistance. Millennium Challenge, 400 million? China is going to release to me 50 billion. Go home, I do not need your aid.” Duterte made the remarks in the presence of new U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, whom he has described as a “very good ambassador” (Duterte referred to his predecessor Philip Goldberg, for comparison, as an “annoying homosexual“).
China has not confirmed Duterte’s claim of another 50 billion, in whatever currency Duterte was referring to, coming the Philippines’s way.
Duterte has endeavored to bring China closer to the Philippines, despite the nation’s history as a close ally of the United States. This has included disregarding Chinese belligerence towards the Philippines in the South China Sea, including the colonization of Philippine sovereign territory for military use. The Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague found in July that China does not have the legal ability to build artificial islands in the international waters of the South China Sea, a case China lost to the Philippines but Duterte has refused to enforce.
“In the play of politics now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling,” Duterte said this week, in response to a new report that China has continued its illegal colonization in the region. “I will not impose anything on China. Why? Because the politics here in Southeast Asia is changing.” He had previously promised not to send coast guard patrols to the disputed areas of the sea that belong to the Philippines.
Duterte has also hinted at a desire to commence joint oil exploration operations with China in the disputed region, though the presidential office eagerly downplayed Duterte’s remarks as potential “business-to-business agreements,” not a government policy, this week.
“I’m just saying that… there is no government policy regarding the matter, covering that matter at this stage. But I suppose what he’s saying, what he was referring to, is the possibility of business-to-business partnerships,” spokesman Ernesto Abella explained.