Philippines eyes US helicopters after scrapping Russian deal

After cancelling a plan to purchase military helicopters from Russia out of concern about Western sanctions, Philippine officials are now contemplating a US offer to supply heavy-lift helicopters similar to its extensively used Chinooks, according to the Philippine ambassador to Washington on Monday.

Due to worries about potential Western sanctions, which could slow down quick bank transfers of the revenue Filipino workers bring home from the US and other Western countries, then-President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the termination of the inked agreement to buy 16 Russian Mi-17 helicopters.

According to Romualdez, Washington did not exert any pressure on the Philippines to renounce the 12.7 billion peso (USD 227 million) deal with the Russians.

However, he warned that countries who would buy Russian technology might be subject to Western penalties in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

For President Duterte to accept the cancellation of that contract, Romualdez said, “I think it was really sensible because it can save us a lot of headache.” Romualdez was speaking at an online news conference hosted by international correspondents located in Manila.

Delfin Lorenzana, the former defence secretary of the Philippines, and Lloyd Austin, his American counterpart, spoke about the US offer to sell Boeing CH-47 Chinooks in Washington as early as last year, before Duterte was persuaded by important Cabinet members to renegotiate the deal, Romualdez claimed.

Sonny Dominguez, the finance secretary and a member of Duterte’s cabinet, forewarned Duterte at the time that Western nations might withhold aid that could help the Philippines deal with and recover from coronavirus outbreaks, two Philippine officials told The Associated Press under the condition of anonymity because they lacked the right to speak publicly about the matter.

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