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Philippines Considering US Choppers After Russian Deal Cancellation

Philippine officials are considering buying heavy-lift helicopters offered by the United States after dropping a deal to purchase Russian choppers due to fears of Western sanctions.

Ex-President Rodrigo Duterte authorized cancellation of the deal to obtain 16 Russian Mi-17 helicopters as associated sanctions might impede bank transfers from Filipino workers in the US and other Western countries who send incomes home, according to Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez.

The scrapped agreement was signed in November and scheduled for delivery within two years. The Philippines planned to utilize the Russian multi-purpose aircraft for combat, search and rescue, and humanitarian missions in the storm and disaster-prone region.

‘No Pressure’ From US

The United States “did not pressure the Philippines” to scrap the Russian deal that cost 12.7 billion Philippine pesos ($227 million), according to Romualdez.

Former Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had discussed the matter even before cabinet members convinced Duterte to toss the Russian offer, according to Romualdez.

“I think it was really prudent specially for President Duterte to approve the cancellation of that contract because it can save us a lot of trouble,” he explained.

The Philippines had already made a down payment of $38 million to the Russian government. The new administration asked Moscow to apply the down payment toward other weapons and equipment, Romualdez said.

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