China turns over much-needed construction equipment to PH to rebuild Marawi

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Story updated to include statements from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 24) - It was still a week before President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City from the Maute terror group.

But the first of China's donation of heavy equipment to rebuild the city with had rolled into a port some 38 kilomters from the battle zone, officials said.

On Tuesday, China formalized its "no strings attached" donation of 47 brand new pieces of construction equipment to the Philippines to held rebuild Marawi.

"No strings attached, no preconditions attached, this is an act of friendship, this is an act of good neighborliness. This is an act of supporting President Duterte in the fight against terrorism but also in the reconstruction of Marawi," Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said at the handover ceremony held at the Public Works' Department's headquarters in the Port of Manila.

China's donation was received by Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The day before, Lorenzana announced the end of all combat operations in Marawi City, as the remaining Maute stragglers had been dealt with.

READ: Fighting in Marawi is over

Zhao added the Chinese government is waiting for additional requests for help from the Philippines.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Monday said that the first of China's donation of equipment arrived in the port of Iligan City on October 9. The "swift" donation was another indicator of strong bilateral ties between the Philippines and China, he added. Iligan City is 38 kilometers north of Marawi City.

"We are thankful to the Chinese government for the swift and timely arrival of its donation at the Iligan Port. China was among the first countries to offer its assistance in rehabilitating Marawi City, a gesture that further cements our strong bilateral relations and reflects the warm friendship between our two countries," Dominguez said in a statement.

After the killing of two of the Maute group's leaders including a wanted terrorist on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's list, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi after nearly five months of fighting on October 17.

Marawi City, famed for its culture and architecture that reflected the heritage of the Muslim Maranao ethnic group, has been reduced to rubble. Government tacks the rehabilitation tab at P50 billion (US$980 million).

Related: Memories of Marawi, before the siege

Secretary Villar said China's donation was unsolicited.

"In terms of help, China was among the first who answered the call for help, and these equipment, it's tangible and we (are) very thankful to the Chinese government,) Villar said.

The 47 pieces of heavy equipment, which included eight each of hydraulic excavators, wheel loaders, dump trucks, and cement mixers, is worth around P155 million ($3 million).

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As bonafide residents of Marawi City are allowed to come home, government is stepping up the building of temporary shelters. Defense Undersecretary and Task Force Bangon Marawi Executive Director Cesar Yano said on Tuesday they hoped to finish by year's end the construction of 600 houses for residents whose homes were destroyed.

The public works department and  the military's engineering brigade have also started to clear roads and drainage, remove tons of debris, and restore basic utilities such as power and running water.

READ: Gov't shifts focus to Marawi rehab as residents prepare to come home

Earlier in June, the Chinese government also gave multi-million pesos worth of high-power assault and sniper rifles with millions of rounds of ammunition to help the government forces fight the terrorists. Defense officials later clarified that the materiel was given to the Philippine National Police for their use.

READ: Duterte thanks China for firearms, ammo vs Mautes

Despite a longstanding dispute over claims in the South China Sea, the Philippines and China have embarked on a new chapter of warm, bilateral relations following President Duterte's state visit to China a year ago.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producer Yvette Morales, Correspondent Makoi Popioco and Senior Correspondent David Santos contributed to this report.