China and Russia are buying their way into the Philippines with weapons, ammunition, and military equipment.
Despite improved relations with the U.S. since former President Barack Obama left office, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte is still pursuing an independent foreign policy, which involves developing ties with two other great powers. Duterte has worked to cultivate defense relationships with China and Russia, and both powers have been quite receptive.
Five Russian warships are currently sitting offshore in preparation for the delivery of thousands of assault rifles, 1 million rounds of ammunition, and nearly two dozen military vehicles Wednesday, Reuters reports.
Duterte announced last week that one of the 100 sniper rifles provided by China was used to bring down a local terrorist leader in a bloody campaign to liberate Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines overrun by Muslim militants with ties to the Islamic State. Some Filipino officers questioned the president’s claim, arguing that the military uses a mixture of Chinese, American, and other foreign firearms.
China, which gave 3,000 assault rifles to the country, has also provided developmental assistance to the Philippines.
The Obama administration blocked the sale of thousands of assault rifles to the Philippines due to concerns over human rights violations in the president’s brutal anti-narcotics campaign. The Trump administration, however, provided advanced weaponry to advance the fight against radical Islamic terrorism in the southern Philippines.
The U.S. has also provided intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support in the Philippines.
U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim downplayed Manila’s newfound connections to Beijing and Moscow, asserting that U.S. ties to the Philippines, a old ally in the Asia Pacific, run much deeper.
“I‘m not really threatened by this notion that China or Russia are providing some military equipment to the Philippines,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We have been providing very important equipment to the Philippines for many, many years. The fact that the Chinese and the Russians have provided some rifles … I am not sure it is really such a cause for concern for the United States.”