MANILA – China on Wednesday announced fresh aid worth 150 million renminbi (approximately P1.1 billion) for the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who is on an official visit to the Philippines, announced the aid, the biggest yet from China, during his visit to Malacañang, where he and President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the signing of various agreements.
“In my talks with the President (Duterte), we also talked about the cooperation between our two countries regarding defense affairs and counter-terrorism. The Chinese side supports efforts made by Mr. President and the Philippine government in upholding security and stability of your country,” Li said in a joint press conference with Duterte.
“The Chinese government will provide 150 million renminbi of grants for the rebuilding and improvement of livelihood in Marawi. We have full confidence that under your leadership, Mr. President, the rebuilding of Marawi will be completed at a very early date and the local people will embrace a better life,” added Li, the first Chinese Premier to visit the Philippines in 10 years.
Duterte, for his part, thanked Li for the Chinese government’s assistance to the Philippines during the height of the siege.
“During the critical stage of the Marawi incident, where we needed help badly, it was China who responded immediately for our cry for help, Duterte said in his opening remarks during the expanded bilateral meeting with Li.
The Filipino leader also noted that the Chinese arms donated to the Philippines “helped abbreviate, shortened the military fight” in Marawi.
“I am happy to report to you that one of the rifles that you gave us killed Hapilon, [who] was the leader or the emir that they named in the Philippines,” he added referring to Isnilon Hapilon, known emir of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia who was killed in combat operations in October.
China has previously turned over at least P85 million worth of assistance to the Philippines in response to the Marawi crisis, including P65 million for troops wounded in the 5-month long siege, an initial P15 million for relief and rehabilitation efforts, and another P5 million in assistance for Marawi troops.
Aside from help to rebuild the war-torn city, China had earlier donated P370 worth of weapons to Manila and sent heavy equipment to Marawi for the rebuilding efforts.
The Marawi rehabilitation aid is just one of the 14 memoranda of understanding and agreements that the Chinese and Philippine sides signed on Wednesday.
Since assuming the presidency, Duterte has chosen to downplay Manila’s dispute with Beijing as he pursued improved trade relations with the economic giant.
China has pledged billions in investments to the Philippines and expressed support for Duterte's controversial war on drugs, which has drawn international criticism.
Following relentless bombings by government troops, the siege ended on Oct. 23, leaving over a thousand people dead, mostly terrorists, and hundreds of thousands displaced. It also left the Islamic city in ruins.
With the massive devastation left by the siege and the large number of fatalities on the side of the terrorists, the President on Sunday said both sides “got nothing” from the siege.
The Marawi crisis, the Philippines’ biggest security problem in years, has sparked concerns that the Islamic State was building a new base in Southeast Asia as its fighters suffered heavy losses in Syria and Iraq.