MANILA- Firearms donated by China to the Philippines may be distributed to government troops in Mindanao next week or as soon as the weapons complete necessary ballistics tests, the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief said Tuesday.
PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa told reporters that the 3,000 firearms are undergoing tests before being sent to various police and military units in the restive south, for long grappling with insurgency, terrorism and banditry.
The weapons aid comes as Mindanao remains under martial rule, declared nearly two months ago, when firefights between government troops and Islamic State-linked terror groups erupted in Marawi City.
Of the total, 2,900 will be distributed to police, while 100 will be handed over to the military.
"Bina-ballistics pa kasi, 'yung papeles noon kailangan legal lahat. Hopefully, matapos 'yan within the week. Idi-distribute natin sa pinaka-priority: Lanao del Sur, ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). Lagyan natin ng armas doon. 'Yung 3,000 na 'yon," Dela Rosa said.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte said receiving the sniper and assault rifles as gifts from Beijing signals "the dawn of a new era of Philippine-Chinese relations."
As part of his "independent foreign policy," Duterte has pursued a pivot from the country's traditional alliance with the United States to bolstered partnerships with non-traditional allies such as China and Russia.
Warming up to China despite unresolved disputes in the South China Sea, Duterte had set aside Manila's victory before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on its case against Beijing in exchange for investments and financial aid.
China has ignored the historic July 2016 ruling that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over nearly all of the waters, instead ramping up militarization and island-building activities despite the disputes.
Duterte himself had said China warned of war against the Philippines should Manila insist on its ownership of areas in the disputed South China Sea.
In May, the Philippines and China began a bilateral consultation mechanism that would eventually tackle the maritime dispute.