Duterte OK of defense deals with US ‘to hasten AFP upgrade

by Business Mirror

President Rodrigo Duterte holds an Israeli-made Galil rifle
In this April 19, 2018 file photo, President Rodrigo Duterte, right, jokes to photographers as he holds an Israeli-made Galil rifle which was presented to him by former Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa at the turnover-of-command ceremony at the Camp Crame in Quezon City.

THE Department of National Defense (DND) said President Duterte’s decision to reconsider his earlier order for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to avoid procuring military equipment from the United States will hasten the system and the delivery of much needed US-made equipment.

DND Spokesman Arsenio Andolong said the Chief Executive’s decision will also provide the military with options and widen its choices for its source of assets and equipment in line with its ongoing capability upgrade program.

“We welcome the President’s pronouncements, and we would like to thank him for making modernization of the AFP one of his priorities. Having said that, all of our procurement will have to undergo the process as stated in the law, RA 10349 and RA 9164,” Andolong said on Sunday.

Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana signed in April a contract for the procurement of 16 S-70i Black Hawk helicopters from Sikorsky, a subsidiary of the American defense manufacturer behemoth Lockheed Martin, in the biggest contract yet with an American firm.

The helicopters, with acquisition cost of P16 billion, will be manufactured out of Sikorsky’s plant in Poland.

Just last week, a subsidiary of Boeing also announced that it will be delivering at least eight ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the country under the Foreign Military Sales program that had been relaxed under US President Donald J. Trump.

The drones were expected to beef up the surveillance and maritime patrols of the Philippine Air Force.

Andolong said Duterte’s pronouncement will give the DND the momentum to complete the transaction on the Black hawk helicopter, an aerial asset that the Air Force had been wanting and was actively pursuing since it began its modernization process.

Japan SDF

Meanwhile, students from the Joint Staff College of the Japan Self-Defense Force headed by Captain Katsuya Yamamoto visited the Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom)  before the weekend as part of their course’s enhancement program.

The Japanese military students, part of the existing exchange program between the Japanese and Philippine military, were welcomed by Nolcom commander Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat.

Nolcom Spokesman Major Ericson Bulosan said the visit was meant to allow the students “a better understanding of Northern Luzon Command’s mission, various policies, and initiatives in addressing current and emerging threats to national security.”

Bulosan quoted Yamamoto as saying during their visit that Japan was increasing its cooperation exercises and training with other armed forces as seen from their previous involvement in combined military exercises like the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (Rimpac) and Balikatan Exercises.

Rimpac, which was held in Hawaii, was also joined by the Philippine Navy while Balikatan was being hosted annually by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

On Saturday, President Duterte indicated that the Philippines is now open to buy firearms from the United States anew after it stopped its purchase of arms in 2016.

“Well, America has been helpful. In the purchase of arms, we have a bad experience but they have a new policy now. We’re going to reconsider,” Duterte said in an interview with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in Davao City on Saturday (June 8), according to a PNA report.

In 2016 the US State Department halted the sale of firearms to the Philippines over concerns on human-rights violations in relation to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

Duterte emphasized that when the Philippines stopped purchasing arms from the US, it started looking for cheaper and better arms.

“We’ll buy if we think we need that kind of particular…. But I’d like to say to the Americans and to the officials—in Washington, when you deprived us of the arms, we started going around scouting for cheaper and better arms. And there were contracts already, memorandum of intent—to buy something like that. So we will not impair [those] obligations,” he said.

He said he could not abandon deals signed by the Philippines with Russia and China, the two countries that provided assistance to the Philippines especially when the Marawi siege took place in May 2017.

“When we needed [the arms], in our hour of need…Russia and China gave it to us practically free,” Duterte said.

“You know I’m a Filipino. You have to have a sense of gratitude. At least honor the contract. Nothing else,” he added.

The President also expressed readiness to cooperate with the US on its new policies to permanently stop immigration services in Manila but has no intention of ever going to war against China.

He also said that he had much respect for Trump.

“Do not ever think that the suspension of the processing for citizenship and special visas and all of these, there’s a deeper meaning to that,” Duterte said.

“But we are ready to cooperate. This I have to say, I will not go to war with anybody against China because that will be the end of the world,” he added.

Duterte, who described China as “good” and America “helpful,” also doubted that the two countries would go to war amid the ongoing trade dispute.

“America and China, alam nila [they know that] a war is the most useless thing in their arsenal. Tapos talaga ang mundo nito [It will really be the end of the world],” Duterte said.

“When they say that, if you blow it all, it is 100 times bigger than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You think we will survive? See you in heaven,” he added.

By: Rene Acosta, June 10, 2019

With a PNA report

Image Credits: AP/Bullit Marquez, File

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