China has offered the Philippines government a firearms deal, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed in a speech on 11 December. He said that he has directed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to send a military general to Beijing to formally receive the guns.

"China is pressing me. The firearms are already available for me to receive. They are really prodding me," Duterte told personnel of the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac City on Sunday evening.

He did not disclose the kind of weaponry that will be given, but said that the deal would be based on a 25-year grant from China. "If it's a grant payable in 25 years, that's practically giving... It's obvious that China wanted to give us (firearms)," the president said.

The move would strengthen relations between the two countries amid continuing territorial dispute in what Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea. According to the Philippines leader, it would also mean that his government would not have to depend on other countries for assistance.

"The firearms are already there and (China) really wants to give them to us. So it's really now easy for us. We don't have to ask (help) from other (countries)," he said.

Philippines has previously relied on the US for its weapons, ships and aircraft, but in November, called off the purchase of over 26,000 US rifles after Washington threatened to stop the deal based on humanitarian concerns over Duterte's violent war on drugs.

"We will not insist on buying expensive arms from the United States. We can always get them somewhere else. I am ordering the police to cancel it. We don't need them," Duterte said in a televised speech at the time.

The Philippines defence secretary also announced plans to purchase sniper rifles from Russia. "If their sniper rifles are superior as they claim, we may decide to acquire. The army and marines will conduct tests and determine how many they may require," Lorenzana said.

Rodrigo Duterte
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte plans to accept a firearms deal with China Reuters/File photo