Philippines abandons Russian chopper transaction

Manila, Philippines (AP) —Philippines officials said the Philippine government had abandoned its contract to purchase 16 Russian transport helicopters for fear of possible US sanctions.

Former Defense Minister Delphin Lorenzana canceled a peso 12.7 billion ($ 227 million) deal to buy a Mi-17 helicopter on Tuesday night, before Rodrigo’s term ended in June.・ Said that it was approved by President Duterte. 30.

“We may face sanctions,” Lorenzana told The Associated Press, explaining how Washington would complain if the Philippines proceeded with a deal due to the worsening conflict with Russia in the United States.

U.S. security officials are aware of Manila’s decision and could provide a similar large helicopter for the Filipino military, he said.

After serving as Secretary of Defense under Duterte, Lorenzana was appointed by the new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to head the government agency responsible for the conversion of the former military base into a business hub.

Washington’s Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romuardes could face the possibility of sanctions under U.S. federal law that Manila would counter U.S. opponents through sanctions if the helicopter deal was successful. Therefore, he told AP that the transaction was cancelled.

Filipino military officials said the helicopter transaction would undergo a “termination process” after a cancellation decision was made, as the contract had already been signed. Russians can appeal, but the Philippine government has little room to reconsider, officials said they spoke on condition of anonymity because they had no authority to publicly discuss the matter.

Under the helicopter purchase agreement signed in November, the first batch of multipurpose helicopters was scheduled to be delivered by Russia’s Sovtechno export within about two years.

When asked if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would affect purchases in March, Lorenzana told reporters that “it is unlikely to be scrapped at this time,” adding that “it will be known over time.”

Lorenzana at the time said the first payment was made by the Philippines in January. It was not immediately clear what would happen to the payments after the Philippines decided to cancel the transaction.

According to Philippine officials, Russian-made helicopters may have been used for combat, search and rescue operations, and medical evacuation in the Southeast Asian Islands, which are often hit by typhoons and other natural disasters.

In March, the Philippines voted “in favor” of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the immediate suspension of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops. It denounced the aggression and repeated the appeal of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to respect the principles of humanitarianism to protect Ukrainian citizens and private infrastructure.

Duterte has expressed concern about the global consequences of Russia’s aggression, but has not personally blamed it. During his tenure, he fostered a close relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he once called his “idol,” and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and frequently criticized US security policy.

The Philippines, a treaty ally of Washington, imposes strict sanctions aimed at urging Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine.

The deal to buy a Russian helicopter was one of several arms purchase contracts signed during Duterte’s last few months.

In February last year, Lorenzana signed a peso 32 billion ($ 571 million) contract to acquire 32 S-70i Blackhawk helicopters from Poland-based aerospace manufacturer PZL Mielec. According to Filipino defense officials, this was the largest military aircraft acquisition contract signed under Duterte.

Due to financial constraints, the Philippines is to modernize one of Asia’s most underfunded troops, deal with decades of Islamic and Communist rebellions, and protect its territory in the conflicting South China Sea. I have been struggling for years.