By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
The Philippine government signed a letter of intent to buy defense equipment from Poly Technologies, Inc., a state-owned Chinese arms maker sanctioned by the United States early on for allegedly supplying weapons of mass destruction to Iran.
In 2014, Poly Technologies was also condemned by human rights watchdog Amnesty International for selling weapons to countries in Africa and Southeast Asia with notorious human-rights records.
In looking at Beijing to supply the needs of the AFP modernization program, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana noted how arms are cheaper in China compared to other suppliers.
Lorenzana was quick to defend the Philippines’ dealing with China on arms purchase despite the Philippines’ claim over disputed islands at the South China Sea.
China also offered to provide $14 million worth of small arms and fast boats to the Philippines for free, to be delivered “by the end of this year,” according to Lorenzana.
The offer casts a shadow of concern raised by China’s militarization in the South China Sea, which also comes on the heels of President Duterte’s turn-around from long-time ally US to China.
“Actually, we are not warring with China on the issue of South China Sea. That’s only a dispute. We believe that would be settled through dialogue, bilateral or multilateral (talks) with other claimants,” Lorenzana added.
This is precisely on the agenda when Duterte met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “We believe that would be settled through dialogue, bilateral or multilateral (talks) with other claimants. China is open about it,” he added.
The shift to China started when two US senators filed a bill restricting the sale of weapons to the Philippine police due to human rights concerns over Duterte’s drug war. Last year, officials from another Chinese arms manufacturer, Norinco, also met with President Duterte.
Duterte is also set to visit Russia, another historic rival of the United States. A security deal for the Philippines similar to that forged with China is expected to be sealed this month so the Philippines can purchase weapons from Moscow.
On a visit to China to attend the so-called Belt and Road Forum, Duterte reportedly received officials of the China Poly Group Corp. and Poly Technologies Inc. who paid a courtesy call on him at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Reports said China Poly Group Corp. was among the four Chinese firms slapped with sanctions by the US in 2013 for selling to Iran, which is banned under US laws, aimed at curbing Iran’s missile program.
The Chinese firms violated the rules of the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other international programs aimed at curbing the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, wire reports said. China had earlier asked the US to revoke its sanctions, criticizing America’s misguided policy.
In contrast to the United States, the Philippines’ longest defense ally, Lorenzana noted the stringent conditions imposed by the US attached to arms procurement.
“The problem with the United States… the process there is very slow because it has to go through Congress, and they demand some conditions. They ask like, what do you do with these equipment? Do you use it against drugs?” he added.
“That’s why we were discouraged to get from them because of so many conditions,” Lorenzana said, sidestepping the issues raised against Duterte about breaking away from the US after it criticized his anti-drugs war.
Asked about the compatibility of Chinese defense equipment with that of the Philippine military, Lorenzana noted that Poly Technologies “produces standard specifications” by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.