Russia urges Philippines to honor helicopter purchase contract

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) — Russia wants the Philippine government to honor a signed contract to purchase 16 military heavy-lift helicopters.

Moscow’s ambassador to Manila, Marat Pavlov, told reporters Wednesday night that the Philippine government had not formally notified Russia of its decision to cancel the deal, and after the Philippines made its initial payment, He said a Russian company is in the process of building a Mi-17 helicopter.

The Filipino pilots who fly the helicopters have been trained in Russia, he said.

The Russian aircraft manufacturer was ready to deliver one of the helicopters in June, but “unfortunately your government did not accept it,” the ambassador said.

“We are ready to fulfill all obligations as a trusted partner on the Philippine side in the field of technical military cooperation, and we believe that it will be done by the Philippines,” Pavlov said.

There was no immediate comment from the Philippine government, now headed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., but the Pentagon said a government commission was convened after the decision to end the Russian helicopter deal was made to provide more details. and is working to recover an unspecified amount paid by the Philippine government to a Russian company. Russia can appeal, but the Philippine government has little room to reconsider, defense officials said.

“I know that in any contract, you need to mention how it can be resolved if one of the parties wants to cancel it,” Pavlov said, adding that the issue is the new government of Marcos Jr. expressed hope that it would be resolved under He declared an independent foreign policy.

Former Philippine Defense Secretary Delphine Lorenzana and Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez first confirmed the government’s decision to end a deal to acquire Russian helicopters in an interview with The Associated Press in July. did.

The decision to cancel the contract approved by Duterte comes amid concerns over Western sanctions, which may include restrictions on delaying bank transfers of huge earnings for Filipino workers returning from the United States and other Western countries. Among other possible problems, according to Romualdez.

Treasury Secretary Sonny Dominguez, one of Duterte’s cabinet ministers, told Duterte at the time that Western countries could withhold aid that could help the Philippines deal with and recover from the coronavirus outbreak. Two Filipino officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that they would discuss the matter publicly.

Romualdez said Washington did not pressure the Philippines to drop a 12.7 billion pesos ($215 million) deal with Russia.

But after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, countries that bought Russian defense equipment could face Western sanctions, he said.

“I think it was particularly wise for President Duterte to approve the termination of that contract, because it would save a lot of trouble,” Romualdez told a Manila-based foreign correspondent in August. said.

A U.S. proposal to sell the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, discussed last year by Lorenzana and his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin, could be seen as a replacement for Russia’s helicopter deal, they said. Romualdez said.

Under the scrap helicopter contract signed in November, the first batch of multi-purpose helicopters was to be delivered by Russia’s Sovtechnoexport in about two years. Apart from the 16 helicopters, one should have been given to the Philippines free of charge, defense officials said.

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

In March, the Philippines voted “yes” to a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an immediate end to Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops.

Duterte expressed concern about the global impact of Russian aggression, but did not personally condemn it when he was still president. At the same time, he built close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he once called “idol.”

The Philippines is a treaty ally of Washington and has imposed heavy sanctions on Moscow with the intent to pressure it to withdraw from Ukraine.