Philippines Wants To Buy 74,000 American Assault Rifles

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Tuesday that the Philippine Army wants to buy 74,000 M-16 assault rifles with accessories from the US, following President Duterte's 180-degree stance about not purchasing defense equipment from the West.

Locsin made the request to US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell on Tuesday who was in Manila for the 8th US-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, reported Philstar Global.

"I told him that to concretize words of US-Phl amity into action is to sell us what Pompeo was told we need and want to buy 74,000 brand new M16s – w/3 clips each. And Duterte will finish all security threats to our democracy. Not a gift; we will pay. We're waiting," Locsin said on Twitter.

This was Stilwell's first trip to the region since becoming Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs last month. He discussed strengthening the two countries' economic and defensive ties and promoting regional stability in the Indo-Pacific region, including free and unobstructed access to waters in the South China Sea.

"As a treaty ally, our partnership with the Philippines is critical for realizing our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, with sovereign thriving nations," Stilwell said in a statement, adding that a strong bilateral alliance "deters aggression and promotes regional stability."

Last month Duterte had a change of heart in purchasing American defense equipment since he said he now likes President Trump.

A falling out between Duterte and the Trump administration occurred last summer when the Philippines bought grenade launchers from a blacklisted Russian firm, a deal that almost resulted in sanctions.

Both sides acknowledged the significance of a robust Philippines-US alliance in improving security cooperation and promoting regional stability.

Stilwell referenced US State Secretary Michael Pompeo's March statements on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, explaining that if any Philippine vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea are attacked will trigger Article IV of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

"Noting this, senior officials discussed a wide variety of issues of mutual interest and reaffirmed their commitment to deepening the alliance and expanding areas of cooperation," the Philippines-United States Eighth Bilateral Strategic Review Joint Statement said.

Both sides are committed to starting new activities to enhance maritime awareness, would probably result in an increase of joint military exercises in the South China Sea. They also agreed on upholding freedom of navigation through the South China Sea, especially around China's militarized islands.

The war hawks in the Trump administration are doing everything in their power to squeeze China, the rising power of the world, the 2019 theme seems to be restoring the Philippines-US relationship, to eventually ramp up joint-military exercises in the South China Sea to continue pressure on China.