DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday that Manila could “reformat” its military engagements with the United States to appease China.
“We need to reformat the land exercises in Fort Magsaysay. Nevertheless they will continue. But those exercises fronting the [South] China Sea, we’ll transfer it to Mindanao so that our neighbors won’t get pissed off. It’s also [being] sensitive to our neighbors,” Lorenzana said.
The defense chief said the idea to move the war games was on the Philippines’ own initiative and not at Beijing’s request.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently renewed his attacks on the United States, telling it to “prepare for the eventual repeal or abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement” after the Millennium Challenge Corp., a US foreign aid agency, deferred a grant to the Philippines over “concerns about the rule of law and civil liberties”--clearly referring to the bloody war on drugs.
Asked if he opposed Duterte’s plan, Lorenzana said he simply explained to the President the implications of his decision.
Duterte’s rocky relationship with the US is in sharp contrast with his ties with Russia, which Lorenzana said has been wooing Manila with military offers.
After visiting Moscow earlier this month, Lorenzana said Russia is open to proposals to strengthen its military ties with the Philippines.
“They’re very aggressive in getting into a relationship with us in military terms,” Lorenzana said.
While the two countries will not be forming a military alliance, Russia is interested in student exchanges as well as hardware sales, Lorenzana said.
Russia has offered to sell the country intelligence equipment, drones and even a submarine, he said.
Highlighting the thaw between Russia and Philippine military relations, two large Russian naval vessels will be paying a goodwill visit to the country from Jan. 2 to 7, 2017.
Capt. Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson, said the Udaloy-class destroyer, Admiral Tributs and the Boris Chilikin-class fleet oiler, Boris Butoma, will arrive at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila a day after the New Year.
The Russian naval delegation will be headed by the Pacific Fleet flotilla deputy commander Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov.
Despite Duterte’s anti-American rhetoric and its pivot to China and Russia, the US will focus on its broad relationship with the Philippines and uphold their shared democratic values, said US Embassy Deputy Press Attaché Emma Nagy.
US Ambassador Sung Kim earlier described relations between the two countries as “a rock solid alliance” with a history of 70 years of friendship. With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan, PNA
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