Philippines cancels chopper deal with Russia

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Andolong said the Department’s contract review committee will “undertake the appropriate processes and exercise due diligence in formalizing the termination of the project’s contract”….reports Asian Lite News

The Philippines is officially cancelling a 12.7-billion-peso ($227 million) contract to purchase 16 Russian military transport helicopters, the government said on Wednesday.

“The Department of National Defence is formalizing the termination of the contract with SOVTECHNOEXPORT LLC of Russia for the procurement of 16 units of Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopters for the Philippine air force,” dpa news agency quoted Arsenio Andolong, the Department’s spokesman, as saying.

Andolong said the Department’s contract review committee will “undertake the appropriate processes and exercise due diligence in formalizing the termination of the project’s contract”.

“We are also preparing to initiate a diplomatic dialogue with the Russian side regarding matters arising from the project’s cancellation,” he added in a statement.

Former Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the decision to cancel the contract was made in the last days of administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte due to fears of US sanctions amid the Russia-Ukraine war.

He said the decision was made after the Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez warned that “the disadvantage that (the Philippines) will get is more than (the advantage) if we get the choppers”.

Lorenza said he was not certain if the government would still be able to recover a 2-billion-peso down payment made for the contract.

Meanwhile, with Chinese extensive military deployment around Taiwan rattling the region, the Philippines is eager to strengthen defence cooperation with the US. The US, which already has troops in bases on Filipino territory, has assured the south-east Asian nation of protection in case of an armed attack.

In the Philippines on Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Philippines is an “irreplaceable ally” while the Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. reflecting on the Taiwan Strait tensions said: “…the visit of your House Speaker Nancy Pelosi coming here… I did not think it raised the intensity; it just demonstrated how the intensity of the conflict has been…”.

China’s aggressive posturing towards Taiwan, in the wake of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, has shaken up the region. Countries in south-east Asia are worried as Beijing has territorial conflicts with many in the South China Sea (SCS).

In Blinken’s visit, the highest-ranking US official to visit Manila after Ferdinand Marcos Jr became President this June, the two nations reaffirmed their decades-old defence alliance. They are governed by the Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT)–an agreement signed on 30 August 1951 that states that if either of the allies faces an armed attack, the other would come to its defence.

Emphasising that the US would defend its allies in south-east Asia, Blinken told journalists: “An armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft will invoke US mutual defense commitments under that treaty. The Philippines is an irreplaceable friend, partner, and ally to the United States.”

US and the Philippines relations had come under strain under previous President Rodrigo Duterte, who was opposed to the continued presence of US troops on Filipino soil. Duterte had tried to move closer to China at the cost of bilateral relations with the US. That scenario changed as Beijing began to assert itself in the region.

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