The Philippines’ armed forces chief left for China Tuesday to sign a logistics deal to source military equipment from the region’s economic powerhouse to combat domestic security threats.
General Ricardo David was expected to meet with senior military officials in Beijing as well as visit facilities there, in a visit the military said was aimed at “building bridges of goodwill.”
Military spokesman Brigadier general Jose Mabanta said no specific details of the deal were readily available, although he described its benefits as “very substantial” for the 130,000-strong Philippine force.
“It would formalise the very good relationship between our countries in terms of exchange of logistics, which the Philippines will be greatly benefiting from,” Mabanta told AFP.
Mabanta said the trip was purely meant to beef up the ill-equipped and often cash-strapped military, which despite US assistance has not been able to crush years of communist and Muslim separatist rebellions.
He said it also did not signify a shift in military alliances, stressing that the Philippines valued Washington’s continued help against Al Qaeda-linked militants on the country’s main southern island.
“There are no political implications,” he said.
The Chinese government had previously donated engineering equipment that helped the Philippine army build roads and bridges to bring outreach programmes in remote areas where Maoist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operate.
The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose rebellion that began in 1969 was initially supported by Beijing.
Mabanta on Tuesday said China “already cut ties with the CPP-NPA for a long time now” and it was now focused on helping improve the Philippine army.
The United States has earlier expressed concern over China’s expansion of its military and economic muscle in the region, mostly through promised investments and assistance to its weaker neighbours.