Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (l) holds a AK-47 assault rifle as Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu looks
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte brandishes a AK-47 assault rifle as Russian minister of defence Sergei Shoigu applauds Reuters

Russia has donated 5,000 assault rifles and a cache of weapons to the Philippines as the Kremlin seeks to boost its military presence in Southeast Asia.

The European superpower also gifted Manila a million rounds of ammunition, and 20 military vehicles in a ceremony in the capital of the archipelago attended by President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (25 October).

The move comes a day after the Kremlin and the Philippines signed an undisclosed deal with Rosoboronexport, a state-owned Russian defence firm.

Philippines defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated the weapons would be used to fight a range of Islamic terror groups who have boltholes across the archipelago, which comprises thousands of islands.

"They want to help us to fight terrorism because they are also fighting terrorism in their country and they want to help the worldwide fight against terrorism. That's their reason," Lorenzana told the Manila Times.

Earlier this month Manila said it had won a five-month battle against Isis-affiliate Abu Sayyaf, in the city of Marawi on the major island of Mindanao, to the south of the archipelago.

More than 1,000 people have been killed since the conflict began, including over 800 militants, while 600,000 people have been displaced.

In the past the US and China have dominated the regional arms trade. The US has donated almost $1bn worth of military equipment to the Philippines, ranging from surveillance planes, drones and boats to small arms, since 2000.

China, which promised to donate another shipment of small arms to Manila, has previously given the Philippines around $7m in small arms.

US defence secretary Jim Mattis said he was not concerned by the deals signed between Russia and the Philippines.

"I don't attach very much significance to it, some trucks or guns being dropped off to a country that's fighting terrorists right now," he told reporters.

He added: "It's a sovereign decision by the Philippines. So it's not a big issue...other nations are coming to their help."