Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said China and the Philippines began its security cooperation 15 years ago with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Filipino and Chinese defense officials.

Speaking at a forum sponsored by the Association for Philippines-China Understanding on the theme “Philippines-China Security Cooperation: Challenges and Prospects” late Tuesday morning, Secretary Lorenzana said that while President Rodrigo Duterte had said he would set aside the arbitral tribunal decision released on July 12,2016, the chief executive had opted to engage China, the region’s top economic power, in a “constructive dialogue.”

“Little has happened from 2004 until President Duterte assumed office in 2016,” he said.  He cited defense industry cooperation, annual security talks, training and education programs for Filipino officers, reciprocal visits, intelligence sharing, and exchange visits by Filipino and Chinese defense and military officials.

“China donated 3,000 sniper rifles and 6 million rounds in 2017 and four fast patrol boats last July 2018 which were sent to Mindanao to patrol our seas,” he added.  Russia followed China in helping the Philippine military.

“We have agreements to combat illegal drugs where Chinese anti-drug agency and PDEA have agreed to apprehend Chinese drug dealers, arrest illegal drug transshipment transactions and stop trafficking in persons,” he said.

He said experts were of the belief that China would overtake the United States of America as economic power and “when that happens, everyone would be looking at China.”

He admitted the construction of artificial islands was “a cause for concern” not only for the Philippines but also Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, and the possibility of Taiwan’s unilateral declaration of independence may be the casus belli to the region.

“China offered a $1-billion credit line for the Philippines,” Lorenzana said.  He added aside from the 3,000 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition, China also gave P1.5 billion worth of engineering equipment after the Marawi City siege.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, he said, informed him of 20 scholarship slots in Chinese universities for Filipino soldiers and their children. 

“The Philippines should not be made to choose between China and the United States as there is a way to balance the relations with these countries,” he added. (Melo M. Acuña)