By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippine government prefers to acquire military equipment from Israel and South Korea instead of its longtime traditional ally United States to enhance its defense arsenal, President Duterte disclosed last Thursday.
The President said he would no longer buy arms from the US after frowning on Washington’s threat to sanction countries engaging trade with China or Russia.
“Pagka bumili ka sa China o maybe Russia, magsali ka sa embargo, you cannot trade with America. So para kang inipit doon sa ano. Eh sabi ko naman sa [If you buy from China or may Russia, you’ll be included in the embargo, you cannot trade with America so you’re pushed into a corner so I told] your superiors and the civilian leaders, with that kind of arrangement, do not expect me to buy arms from the United States,” Duterte said during the turnover of housing units to soldiers and policemen in Bulacan.
“Kung magbili ka, sabihin mo, hindi ako makabili sa China kasi kasali ka doon sa embargo, napakapangit naman. Para kang walang utang na loob [If you buy and say I cannot buy from China because you’re part of an embargo, that’s very ugly. It’s like you don’t have no gratitude]. You have to be a warrior to see the difference of what is a matter of principle and a matter of honor. Kaya sabi ko, magbili tayo either Israel or Korea, period [So I said we will buy either from Israel or Korea period],” he added.
The President noted that US President Donald Trump recently announced moves to prohibit countries “including us” from any transaction with China and Russia.
Duterte, however, opposed any inclusion of an anti-China or Russia clause in the country’s trade ties with the US, saying the two countries were among those who rushed to the country’s aid when it was most in need.
“I will not agree to buy. Pangit tingnan. Hindi maganda [It looks bad. It’s not good]. It does not sit well with the Filipino na ganunin ka tapos pasunod-sunod ka na lang [that they will do something like that and you will simply follow],” he said.
He also recalled receiving a letter signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Defense James Mattis asking him to reconsider his decision on the purchase of defense equipment.
Duterte, however, made it clear that he was not angry with the United States, recalling that it made the first move when the past Obama administration criticized his war on illegal drugs.
“Wala naman akong galit sa kanila. Sila ‘yung nauna. And they criticized me heavily dito sa drugs,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier announced that the military was planning to buy US-made Black Hawks to replace the botched combat utility helicopter deal with Canada.
Lorenzana said the Philippine Air Force has chosen the Sikorsky Black Hawk for its combat utility helicopter acquisition project and the T129 ATAK of the Turkish Aerospace Industries for its attack helicopter project.
The Air Force declined to select Russia’s cheaper military equipment amid the US sanctions on Russia’s military exports.