Philippines confirms cancellation of purchase of 16 Russian military helicopters

The Philippines confirmed the cancellation of a $228 million contract to buy 16 Russian military helicopters, apparently due to fear of US sanctions.

“We are formalizing the contract termination process with the Russian side,” Philippine Defense Department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said today, referring to the deal to buy Mi-17 military helicopters.

Andolong said “change in priorities due to global political developments led to the cancellation of the contract by the previous administration”, but did not specifically mention US sanctions against Russia.

The Russian Embassy in Manila has not commented on this report.

Delfin Lorenzana, defense secretary under President Rodrigo Duterte, said in March that the Philippines signed a contract of 12.7 billion pesos ($228 million) in November 2021 to buy Russian Mi-17 helicopters to modernize it. military hardware. The first batch of helicopters is expected to be delivered within two years.

According to Lorenzana, the contract was signed before the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the Philippines paid a deposit.

A Russian Mi-17 helicopter supports joint Russian-Turkish patrol near the town of al-Jawadiyah, Syria, in December 2020.  Photo: AFP.

A Russian Mi-17 helicopter supports joint Russian-Turkish patrol near the town of al-Jawadiyah, Syria, in December 2020. Image: AFP.

However, Lorenzana, who now heads another government agency, said last week that it was Duterte who decided to cancel the agreement in the final days of his term because of concerns about US sanctions on Russia.

“I don’t know if it’s possible to get the deposit back, because we’re the terminating party,” Lorenzana told reporters.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez recently said that the decision to cancel the contract was related to the “Ukraine war”. According to him, Manila is also wary of the risk of violating the US Countering the Enemy Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The act punishes those who cooperate in intelligence or defense with Russia.

“The US will provide replacement helicopters to meet our needs,” Romualdez said.

The Philippines began its military modernization program in 2012. After President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. came to power on June 30, the new government reviewed the helicopter contract with Russia and came to the same decision as Duterte.

The Russian Mi-17 helicopter can be used in combat, search and rescue operations, as well as medical evacuations in the Philippines, a country that is frequently hit by typhoons and other natural disasters. .

The Russian side can appeal the termination process, but the Philippine government is unlikely to change its mind.

After Russia launched a military campaign in Ukraine in late February, the United States and its allies imposed a series of broad-based sanctions aimed at cutting Moscow off from the global financial system and limiting Russia’s foreign currency earnings.

Huyen Le (Theo AFP)

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