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The Philippines Cancels Russian Helicopter Deal

Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana speaks during the fifth plenary session of the 18th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim, File)
The Philippines Cancels Russian Helicopter Deal
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The Philippine government has canceled a deal to purchase 16 Russian military helicopters.

Philippine officials said they ended the deal because they feared U.S. sanctions.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte made the decision to cancel the $227 million deal last month before his term in office ended June 30. Former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the cancellation Tuesday.

“We could face sanctions,” Lorenzana told the Associated Press. He said there were several other ways the U.S. could show its displeasure if the Philippines continued with the deal.

The relations between the United States and Russia have been tense since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

American security officials knew about the Philippines’ decision, Lorenzana said. The U.S. could offer similar, powerful helicopters for Philippine military use, he added.

Lorenzana served as defense chief under Duterte. He has been appointed by new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to lead a government agency. The agency oversees efforts to change military bases into business centers.

A screen show incoming Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte at the inauguration ceremony venue at National Museum on Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Manila, Philippines.
A screen show incoming Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte at the inauguration ceremony venue at National Museum on Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Manila, Philippines.

A Philippine military official said the helicopter deal would go through a “termination process” since the deal was canceled after it had already been signed. Russia can appeal but there is little the Philippine government can do to reconsider, the official said.

The helicopter purchase agreement was signed in November. The first shipment was expected in about two years.

Asked in March if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would affect the purchase, Lorenzana told reporters: “We do not see any likelihood of it being scrapped as of this moment.” But he added, “Only time can tell.”

Lorenzana, at the time, said a starting payment had been made in January. It is not clear what will happen to the payment after the Philippines’ decision to back out of the deal.

The Russian-made helicopters were to be used for fighting, search and rescue operations, and medical evacuations. The Philippines is often hit by strong ocean storms and other natural disasters, Philippine officials said.

In March, the Philippines voted “yes” on a United Nations General Assembly resolution demanding an immediate end to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. It also called for the withdrawal of all Russian troops. The resolution condemned the invasion and called for the respect of humanitarian rights in the area.

Duterte has expressed concern over the worldwide impact of the Russian invasion but has not personally condemned it. When he was in office, he had close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. He often criticized U.S. security policies. Duterte once called Putin his “idol.”

The deal for the Russian helicopters was among several weapons purchase agreements signed during Duterte’s final months in office.

Last February, Lorenzana signed a $571 million deal to purchase Black Hawk helicopters from an aerospace manufacturer based in Poland. It was the largest military aircraft purchase contract signed under Duterte, Philippine defense officials said.

The Philippines has had to fight Muslim and communist militants and defend its territories in the disputed South China Sea. But the country has struggled to modernize its military.

I'm Dan Novak

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

sanction — n. (usually pl.) an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country

scrap –v. to stop using or leave something

evacuation — n. the removal of one or more people from a dangerous situation

idol –n. someone who is respected, well-thought of or admired


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