The Philippines says it may buy Chinook helicopters from the United States, after it scrapped a $227-million deal to buy 16 Mi-17 Russian military helicopters from Russia in order to avoid sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine.
The Philippine ambassador in Washington said his country was now talking to the US about the possibility of buying heavy-lift Chinooks, after Duterte scrapped the Russian deal just before the end of his six-year term as president.
“This cancellation of this contract is precipitated mainly by the war in Ukraine. While there are sanctions expected to come our way, from the United States and western countries, obviously it is not in our interest to continue and pursue this contract,” ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said last week in a virtual forum with journalists.
Romualdez said the Chinooks would replace existing hardware used for the movement of troops and in disaster preparedness in the Southeast Asian country.
The United States is willing to strike a deal for the amount the Philippines was set to spend on the Russian helicopters, Romualdez said, adding the arrangement with Washington is likely include maintenance, service and parts.
The Philippines is pursuing discussions with Russia to recover its $38 million down-payment for the helicopters, the delivery of which was supposed to start in November next year, or 24 months after the contract was signed.
The Philippines is at the tail-end of a five-year, 300 billion-pesos modernisation of its outdated military hardware that includes warships from World War Two and helicopters used by the US in the Vietnam War.
Aside from military deals, the Philippines, under new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, also wants increased economic exchanges with the United States including in fields of manufacturing, digital infrastructure and clean energy, including modular nuclear power, Romualdez said.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard