The United States has given the Philippines hundreds of machine guns, pistols and grenade launchers to assist in the fight against Islamist militants in Marawi City.
The weapons were handed over at a ceremony in Manila today (Monday, June 5) that highlighted an American counter-terrorism assistance programme worth about $150 million.
“This equipment will enhance the (Philippine Marines’) counterterrorism capabilities, and help protect troops actively engaged in counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines,” a statement by the US embassy in Manila said.
Philippine Marines chief Major General Emmanuel Salamat said troops would use the weapons to counter the ongoing chaos in Marawi.
Terrorists flying black Islamic State (IS) flags rampaged through the city nearly two weeks ago, leaving at least 178 people, including 120 militants, dead.
In response to the violence, President Duterte declared martial law across the entire island of Mindanao.
The Philippines and the US are bound by a 1951 mutual defence treaty to protect each other if attacked. The US is also the country’s biggest supplier of arms.
However President Duterte has sought to loosen the Philippines’ ties with the US in favour of closer relations with China and Russia.
He has also called for the withdrawal of American troops from his country while scaling down joint military exercises.
He is now looking to China and Russia as new sources of weapons, and recently complained about the quality of “second-hand” American hardware.
“I will not accept any more military equipment that is second hand,” he said on Friday. “The ones the Americans are giving, I do not want that anymore.”
The equipment handed over today was all new.
It included four M134D machine guns, which are capable of firing thousands of rounds a minute, as well as 300 M4 assault rifles and 100 grenade launchers.