Philippines to buy US aircraft after scrapping Russia deal

Oct 19, 2022, 9:30 PM | Updated: Oct 20, 2022, 4:45 am

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday backed a decision by his predecessor to cancel a deal to buy 16 Russian military heavy-lift helicopters and said his administration has “secured an alternative supply from the United States.”

Marcos Jr. said at a news conference that the Philippine government will negotiate to get back part of the down payment it made to the Russian aircraft manufacturer.

It was the first time Marcos Jr., who took office in June, has commented publicly on the touchy issue involving Russia. His predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, signed the deal to buy the Mi-17 helicopters but decided before his term ended to cancel the contract due to fears of possible Western sanctions.

“I think it was already determined by the previous administration that that deal will not carry through, will not go on,” Marcos Jr. said when asked to comment on a call by the Russian ambassador to Manila for the Philippine government to honor the helicopter deal.

“We have secured an alternative supply from the United States,” the president said. He added, without elaborating, that the U.S. aircraft to be ordered by the Philippines would be manufactured in Poland.

Moscow’s ambassador to Manila, Marat Pavlov, told reporters Wednesday night that the Philippine government has not officially notified Russia of its decision to cancel the deal and a Russian company was proceeding to manufacture the Mi-17 helicopters after the Philippines made an initial payment.

Filipino pilots who would operate the helicopters have undergone Russian training, he said.

The Russian aircraft manufacturer was ready to deliver one of the helicopters in June “but unfortunately, it was not accepted by your government,” Pavlov said.

“We are ready to fulfill all our obligations as a reliable partner of the Philippine side in the field of technical military cooperation and we consider that it will also be done by the Philippines,” Pavlov said.

The Department of National Defense in Manila, however, said it formally notified the Russian aircraft manufacturer Sovtechnoexport in June and last month of the Philippine decision to cancel the contract. The defense department has convened a committee to thresh out the details of the withdrawal from the deal, department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said.

“Unfortunately, we made a down payment that we are hoping to negotiate to get at least a percentage of that back,” Marcos Jr. said.

Former Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez first confirmed the government’s decision to terminate the deal in interviews with The Associated Press in July.

The decision, which was approved by Duterte, was made amid concern over possible Western sanctions which could include restrictions that would slow down bank transfers of the huge amounts of money that Filipino workers send home from the U.S. and other Western countries, according to Romualdez.

One of Duterte’s Cabinet members, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, had warned Duterte then that Western countries may withhold assistance that could help the Philippines deal with and recover from coronavirus outbreaks, two Philippine officials told the AP on condition of anonymity because they lacked the authority to discuss the issue publicly.

Romualdez has said Washington did not pressure the Philippines to drop the 12.7 billion-peso ($215 million) deal with the Russians.

But following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, countries that purchase Russian defense equipment could face Western sanctions, he said.

“I think it was really prudent specially for President Duterte to approve the cancellation of that contract because it can save us a lot of trouble,” Romualdez told Manila-based foreign correspondents in August.

A U.S. offer to sell Boeing CH-47 Chinooks which was discussed last year by Lorenzana and his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin, could be considered to replace the Russian helicopter deal, Romualdez said.

Under the scrapped helicopter deal, which was signed in November, the first batch of the multi-purpose helicopters was scheduled for delivery by Russia’s Sovtechnoexport in about two years. Aside from the 16 helicopters, one would have been given free to the Philippines, defense officials said.

The Russian-made helicopters could have been used for combat, search and rescue operations, and medical evacuations in the Southeast Asian archipelago, which is often battered by typhoons and other natural disasters, Philippine officials said.

In March, the Philippines voted “yes” on a U.N. General Assembly resolution that demanded an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops.

When Duterte was in office, he nurtured close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he once called his “idol,” and Chinese leader Xi Jinping while frequently criticizing U.S. security policies.

The Philippines is a treaty ally of Washington, which has imposed heavy sanctions on Moscow aimed at pressuring it to withdraw from Ukraine.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Snow covers a tree in central Athens with the ancient Parthenon temple on the Acropolis hill seen i...
Associated Press

Greece: Snow reaches Acropolis, halts services

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — High winds and a cold snap in Greece halted ferry services and highway traffic and dusted the Acropolis and other ancient monuments in Athens with snow on Monday. The inclement weather prompted authorities in greater Athens in close schools and courthouses and suspend debates in parliament. Cellphone alerts sent by authorities […]
2 hours ago
Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in capital...
Associated Press

Kosovo PM calls on West not to put pressure over Serb entity

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti called on Western powers not to pressure his tiny Balkan country into accepting a contentious association of five Serb-majority municipalities that is ramping up tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. Kurti told The Associated Press that the focus instead should be on making Serbia more democratic and […]
2 hours ago
A vendor sells refrigerator magnets showing a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin, on main ...
Associated Press

In pro-Putin Serbia, liberal-minded Russians seek a home

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — At a central square in Serbia’s capital of Belgrade, dozens of Russians gathered recently to denounce President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, holding up photos of political prisoners from their homeland. Across the plaza, a billboard touts the Russian propaganda outlet RT, which has launched an online news portal in the […]
2 hours ago
Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell, left, gestures as he speaks to China's Minister of Commerce,...
Associated Press

China-Australia trade ministers hold 1st meeting since 2019

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian and Chinese trade ministers held their first bilateral meeting in three years Monday as Australia urges China to lift official and unofficial barriers that are costing exporters 20 billion Australian dollars ($14 billion) a year. China has thawed its diplomatic freeze on Australia since Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s center-left Labor […]
2 hours ago
The damaged structure is seen at the scene of a fire at the Bright Moon Buddhist Temple in Springva...
Associated Press

Fire extensively damages Buddhist temple in Australian city

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A Buddhist temple has been extensively damaged by fire in the Australian city of Melbourne. About 80 firefighters fought the blaze at the Bright Moon Buddhist Temple for more than two hours before it was brought under control late Sunday. Spot fires were still being put out Monday. There were no […]
2 hours ago
A computer screen displays a notice blocking the Wikipedia website through an online news site in I...
Associated Press

Pakistan blocks Wikipedia, says it hurt Muslim sentiments

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s media regulator said Monday it blocked Wikipedia services in the country for hurting Muslim sentiment by not removing purportedly blasphemous content from the site. Critics denounced Islamabad’s action, saying it was a blow to digital rights. Under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or its figures can […]
2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Philippines to buy US aircraft after scrapping Russia deal