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Spratlys > News > English News > March 2005

Category: @News  @China

Philippines set for China military aid
The Standard, Hong Kong - March 03, 2005

China has pledged military assistance for the Philippines for the first time, underscoring its rising influence in a country for long dominated by the United States.

It has promised 10 million yuan (HK$9.43 million) worth of equipment, including engineering hardware, a source with knowledge of the deal said.

``We in the Philippines welcome China's increasing role in regional and international affairs,'' Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said from Beijing.

Romulo also ratified a memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation, which was signed last November, an embassy official said.

American troops pulled out of the Philippines, a former US colony, in 1992, but Manila and Washington maintain close ties.

US troops have recently been helping train Filipino forces in battling Muslim guerrillas and terrorists.

The United States would remain ``the dominant player'' in the region, said Shi Yinhong, who teaches international relations at Beijing's Renmin University.

In addition to military aid, China - until recently a recipient of foreign aid in the wake of natural disasters - had donated US$250,000 (HK$1.95 million) to victims of typhoons that hit the Philippines last November and December.

Premier Wen Jiabao told Romulo Tuesday that he hoped both countries would improve cooperation.

China exported its communist revolution to Asian neighbors, including the Philippines, in the 1960s, but bilateral relations have improved in recent years. President Hu Jintao will visit the Philippines in April, and the two countries are slated to hold a security dialogue in Manila during the same month, a diplomatic source said.

When Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited Beijing last September, a landmark agreement was signed enabling national oil companies from both countries to conduct marine seismic tests near disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Romulo returned to the subject Wednesday, saying that ``the South China Sea, instead of a regional flash point, has been transformed into an area of cooperation, peace and development.''

But besides China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam claim in whole or in part the oil-rich Spratly chain of islands and atolls.

All the claimants except Brunei have troops stationed in the area and there have been deadly clashes in the past.

The most serious incident occurred in 1988 when Chinese and Vietnamese naval forces fought at Johnson Reef, resulting in the deaths of 78 Vietnamese navy personnel.

And when China and the Philippines agreed last year to carry out a joint study in the area, there was concern from other claimants.

Vietnam warned that the joint study could violate a 2002 code of conduct signed by the claimants to refrain from actions that could disturb the volatile peace in the islands.

But Romulo, saying Sino-Filipino ties were at an all-time high, stressed the priority of economic development in the region.

``If there are conflicts, whether in the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula or Taiwan Strait, it is important for the countries in the region to bind together to have meaningful dialogue in the diplomacy,'' he said.

``If we can preserve peace in the region, we can get on with economic development.''

On development, China is also poised to invest in the Philippine mining industry.

A Philippine delegation, led by the environment and trade secretaries, held a mining roadshow in Beijing in January and said it had won investment pledges in nickel and other mining projects worth US$1.3 billion.

The Philippines posted a trade surplus of US$4.79 billion with China last year, with exports jumping 43.6 percent to US$9 billion and imports surging 38 percent to US$4.2 billion.

Chinese technological support will also help the Philippines attain rice and corn self-sufficiency by 2006 and 2010. REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE