Beijing made good on its promise to become Manila’s steadfast ally when it delivered a large batch of weapons last month. While Chinese-made arms and equipment have been purchased by agencies of the Philippine government in the past, the fanfare over the small arms that arrived on June 28 was without precedent.
In a ceremony attended by President Duterte, his defense minister, and the Chinese ambassador, small arms were put on display as physical proof of military aid when Filipino soldiers are still battling a local Islamic State franchise in Marawi city. The weapons were shown during a press briefing in Clark, Pampanga, where a former US airbase is run by the Philippine government.
Flanked by his staff and officers from the armed forces and police, Duterte personally handled samples of the the weapons that arrived via four unspecified cargo planes. The cost of the arms delivery was reported to be worth $7.35 million and it was alluded the small arms represented an initial batch from a package agreed upon in late 2016.
As photos from the Clark ceremony reveal, samples of the Chinese SVD rifle, an M4 carbine clone, and a new bolt action sniper rifle known as the JS were put on display.
The SVD is a 7.62x54mm semi-automatic rifle commonly used by a designated marksman in a mechanized infantry squad. Manufactured in numerous countries, with derivatives made by at least two Eastern European gun makers, the Dragunov is the most enduring sniper rifle in modern war.
It’s unclear when Chinese copies of the M4 carbine first appeared. But these aren’t used by the PLA and seem to be reserved for special police units and commandos. As a result of unrestricted exports, the Chinese M4 or “CQ” is found all over the world and is popular with both terrorist groups and North American gun owners.
The CQ M4 and the Bushmaster M4’s of the Philippine Army aren’t interchangeable, however, although both models use the same magazines and can be fitted with new optics and parts. The exact number of CQ M4’s sent by China to Clark was never reported but the Philippine police do have a requirement for 27,000 carbines.
A bolt action sniper rifle known as the “JS” was included in the same batch. It’s unclear if the 7.62x51mm or the 5.8x42mm variant was provided. The JS is best described as a Chinese attempt at imitating the UK’s Arctic Warfare Magnum.
Whether or not Chinese weapons, including vehicles and helicopters, become a permanent part of the Philippine military’s arsenal remains to be seen. According to the defense ministry the small arms from China have to be inventoried first before these are issued.
These gestures do serve as undeniable proof Beijing accepts Duterte’s fealty. Will Russia soon follow? The President’s visit to Moscow in May was cut short by the Marawi rising that forced him to declare martial law over Mindanao and return home. Duterte did have a brief meeting with Vladimir Putin, but it was the former’s surrogate–Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano–who inked a collection of agreements on economic cooperation later on.