Sino loan to finance weapons’ buy—DND
THE Philippines is ready to buy planes, fast boats and drones from China using a $500-million long-term soft loan to build up its defense capabilities, Defense Secretary Delfin Lazaro said Monday.
After executives of the state-owned arms manufacturer Poly Technologies paid a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte, who is on a working visit in Beijing, Lorenzana said he signed a nonbinding letter of intent to buy defense equipment, including “airplanes, drones [and] fast boats” that can help the military stop bandit groups and pirates operating in Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.
“We’re not saying we will buy or not. But if we need anything from the Chinese defense industry, we will procure [these] using the loans they will offer us,” he said.
Beijing offered a $500-million loan on standby, which the Philippines can draw from once the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization fund is fully used up.
“If we still have money, we will buy with our money. When we run out, that’s when we dip into their loan,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said a technical team will have to inspect the equipment being offered, while the Defense department will consult with the Army, Navy and Air Force about their requirements and determine if the Chinese weapons are in line with the specifications of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
In December, Beijing gave Manila a $14-million (P700 million) grant to buy four fast boats, 200 sniper rifles, several hundred rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition that are scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year.
But Lorenzana said the insurgency and criminality in the South are driven by the lack of economic opportunities, and said he was hopeful that the opportunities brought about by China’s One Belt One Road program would address some of these problems and improve the security situation there.
Poly Technologies, a subsidiary of China Poly Group, was among four Chinese companies that faced US sanctions for allegedly breaching a US law designed to hamper the development of weapons of mass destruction by Iran, North Korea and Syria in 2013.
The sanctions mean that no US government department or agency may enter into procurement contracts with the companies or assist them.
Poly Technologies has denied the US allegations.
Most of the weaponry in the Armed Forces inventory are Western-acquired armaments, particularly from the United States and regional allies.
In May, two US senators filed a bill barring the sale of certain weapons by the United States to the Philippine National Police over concerns about the rising death toll in the war on drugs.
The bill called Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act of 2017, was filed by Ben Cardin and Marco Rubio.
“No defense articles or defense services may be exported, and no licenses for export of any item controlled by the United States for law enforcement, riot control, or related purposes may be issued, for the use of Philippine National Police or entities associated with the Philippine National Police,” the bill said.
The restrictions, however, would not apply to the export of defense articles, or the provision of training for Coast Guard drug interdiction, criminal justice programs, human rights training and counter-terrorism programs.
The bill states that the US will continue to support the Philippines on defense, counter-terrorism, maritime law enforcement, and maritime domain awareness.
It also authorizes $50 million for the use of the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development to “promote a public health approach to substance abuse and to support Filipino defenders of human rights, assist victims of human rights violations, respond to human rights emergencies, and promote and encourage the rule of law, including the support for nongovernmental organizations in the Philippines.”