By Julie M. Aurelio, June 10 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer
Image Credit to Financial Times
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte had a change of heart about not buying defense equipment from the United States.
Speaking in a television interview in Davao City on Saturday, the President said he would reconsider and buy certain types of US military hardware because of a “new policy” of the United States and his fondness for US President Donald Trump.
“Well, America has been helpful. In the purchase of arms, we have a bad experience. But they have a new policy now. We’re going to reconsider,” the President said.
The defense department on Sunday welcomed the President’s announcement, saying it would give it a wider choice of weapons for the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“We will now be able to make our choices even better. We can proceed with procurements on the pipeline. I think it’s good news,” said Arsenio Andolong, spokesperson for the Department of National Defense.
The Philippine Air Force last year recommended the US-made Lockheed Martin Sikorsky “Black Hawk” attack helicopter to replace the Canadian Bell 412 EPI, a $240-million deal for which was scrapped after Ottawa raised concern that the choppers might be used for military offensives rather than for transportation and humanitarian assistance.
In January, the President said he would no longer buy weapons from the United States because of US threats to impose sanctions on countries buying military equipment from China and Russia.
Earlier, he said he would buy weapons from the two countries, but was also considering purchasing military equipment from South Korea and Israel.
His decision came after US legislators stopped the sale of assault rifles to the Philippine National Police because the weapons might be used in killing suspects in his brutal war on drugs.
After the deal fell through, he said his government decided to look for other sources of cheaper but better firearms.
He said both China and Russia offered aid to the Philippines during the siege of Marawi City in 2017.
“I’d like to say to the Americans and to the officials in Washington, when you deprived us of the arms, we started going around scouting for cheaper and better arms. There were contracts already, memorandum of intent, intent to buy something like that so we will not impair that obligation,” he said.
“I’m sorry but it’s like this: When we needed, in the hour of our need, we needed the arms, Russia and China gave it to us practically free,” the President said.
Citing the Filipino trait of gratitude, he said he decided to honor the contracts with Russia and China despite US threats of sanctions.
He did not explain the new US policy in his television interview on Saturday, but said he liked Trump and gave assurance that the Philippines would maintain its traditional alliance with the United States and would “not do anything to hinder or hamper” their ties.
“I do not have a problem with Trump, that much I respect him,” the President said. —With a report from Jeannette I. Andrade