Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said the Philippine government may consider replacing the 16 canceled Russian helicopters with weapons as part of the $38-million down payment it is trying to recover from Moscow after Manila scrapped the agreement due to possible sanctions.
Romualdez, the country’s top diplomat to Washington also said this is one of the options that he will propose to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Department of Defense (DND) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after the contract to acquire MI-7 helicopters was terminated by the Philippine government to avoid US and western sanctions, GMA News reported.
Quoted in the report, Romualdez said “definitely we will not just simply say goodbye to that money.”
“Maybe we can look for the supply of other things we may need from Russia to replace the helicopters as part of the payment.”
The government said the helicopter purchase contract with Russia’s Sovtechnoexport was signed in November last year.
Romualdez said the cancellation of the contract “is precipitated mainly by the war in Ukraine.”
Former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, under the Duterte administration, said getting the money back may be difficult since a contract has already been signed.
The contract would have enabled the delivery of the first batch of transport helicopters in two years, but Manila is likely to face pressure from Washington due to an existing sanctions legislation that prohibits the purchase of military equipment from countries like Russia, GMA News reported.
Romualdez further said the Philippines government is considering buying Chinook helicopters from the United States after scrapping the Russian contract.
“While there are sanctions expected to come our way, from the United States and western countries, obviously it is not in our interest to continue and pursue this contract,” he said.
He noted the Chinooks would replace the heavy lift helicopters needed by the country’s armed forces for movement of troops and disaster preparedness.
“I understand the United States has offered to try to come up with a similar amount that we were going to spend with the Russian helicopters. In other words, at a special price,” he said.
The US deal offers maintenance services and helicopter parts, he added. The military procurement contract was signed in November 2021 under
the Duterte administration.
It called for the purchase of 16 Mi-17 Russian military transport helicopters with an additional unit of Soviet era heavy-lift aircraft to be included at no extra cost.
Earlier, the Department of National Defense said it has formed a committee to formalize the withdrawal from the contract worth PHP12.7 billion or about US$244.2 million.
Romualdez said the government is also looking at getting “a supply of other things that the country may need from Russia to replace the helicopters.”
“As part of the payment of the I think, of about US$38 million that we paid the downpayment for the helicopters,” he added. “So, in exchange for that, we will probably get some of the arms that we may need.” With PNA