By Francis Wakefield and the Philippine News Agency
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is now in Moscow, Russia to discuss possible areas of cooperation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu.
This was disclosed by Defense department spokesperson Arsenio Andolong late Monday when asked about Lorenzana’s visit to Russia.
“The SND (Secretary of National Defense) is in Moscow upon the invitation of Russian Defense Minister and General of the Army Sergey Shoygu. He is reciprocating the visit which the latter recently paid him in the Philippines,” he said in a message to the Philippine News Agency.
Lorenzana left for Russia on Aug. 16 and is expected to be back in the country Friday.
There, the two defense chiefs will discuss possible areas of cooperation between the DND and the Russian Defense Ministry.
“They will discuss possible areas in which cooperation between the defense establishments of the Philippines and Russia may be developed and deepened,” Andolong added.
In a separate message, Lorenzana said he is in Russia to look into some of the defense equipment the latter is offering.
“To look at some defense equipment they are offering: like submarines, helicopters,” the DND chief said when asked on the purpose of his visit to Moscow.
In October last year, Lorenzana and Shoygu signed an Agreement for Military-Technical Cooperation between the two countries.
The document contained provisions on various areas of military and technical cooperation such as research, production support, as well as possible exchange of experts and training of personnel for joint programs.
Andolong assured that the defense department it will honor all its alliances and international partnerships through the conduct of international defense and security engagements.
The defense department said it will procure equipment that is most advantageous for the Armed Forces of the Philippines through its Modernization Program but the United States expressed alarm over the government’s plan to acquire submarines from Russia.
US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver who visited the country recently said purchasing major Russian equipment does not help ties with Washington.
Andolong said while the acquisition of submarines for the Philippine Navy is still under study, nothing is final at this point, “We emphasize that the Defense Department will procure equipment that is most advantageous for the Armed Forces of the Philippines through our AFP Modernization Program,.”
“We will acquire equipment from any country as long as the procurement follows the proper process as provided for under Philippine laws, and the equipment meets the requirements of its end users. In the case of the planned submarine purchase, we will consider any and all offers,” Andolong said.
The defense chief earlier revealed Russia is keen on selling the Philippines its Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, which has surface displacement of 2,350 tons, a length of 73.8 meters, and capable of speed of 17 to 20 knots.
The Kilo-class submarines can be armed with a variety of torpedoes, missiles, and naval mines and have a cruising range of around 6,000 to 7,500 nautical miles.
In the ASEAN region, Vietnam is known to operate six improved Kilo-class submarines in its fleet.
Lorenzana said Russia is more than willing to provide the country “soft loans” to acquire the specialized underwater craft is the Philippines has no funds to buy its first-ever submarine.
Lorenzana said President Duterte wanted to buy two submarines from Russia and is also looking at South Korea as another source.