President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the country would be “prompt” in paying to acquire cargo helicopters from Russia despite the limited funds of the government.
The President said the Philippines would not take advantage of its friendship with Russia to purchase the air assets needed for the military’s modernization program.
“I’m sure we will have to make the down payment and be prompt. Just because Russia is a friend, it doesn’t follow that we abscond or do not pay our debts,” he said to RT, a Russian television network.
“It’s still money, and we are really short of it, actually. We are not that rich,” he added.
The military was reportedly interested in buying 16 Mi-17 medium-lift Russian helicopters, which costs US$235 million.
“We had our priorities. I was buying for 12 cargo helicopters and you know we are not a rich country. However, we programmed the funds of government, how to budget it. There’s not always not enough to go around with,” President Duterte said.
Meanwhile, the President reiterated his desire for closer ties and investment opportunities between the Philippines and Russia.
“I’m sure Russia could come here and look for viable businesses than can help Russia. We do not consider the distance as a limit in our friendship in our desire to be a partner of Russia and the rest of the Eastern countries in trade and commerce,” he said.
“We don’t think that the distance is on the minus side. It’s a plus side and nothing can really be a hindrance if you really want to do it with another country,” he added.
Since he took office in 2016, Duterte has made two official trips to Russia, in 2017 and in 2019. His first visit to Moscow was cut short after a deadly terror siege erupted in Marawi City.
Last October, he made his second visit to Russia and took home $12.57 million worth of business agreements concerning exportation of Philippine products, exploration of nuclear power plants, and importation of technological products from Russian companies.
The President was also conferred with an honorary doctorate degree (honoris causa) by Moscow State Institute of International Relations University, a training ground for budding Russian diplomats.
Duterte also met with Russian businessmen in a forum.