MANILA: The Philippines is considering an offer to buy heavy-lift Chinook helicopters from the US at a “special price,” after a deal with Russia was scrapped in order to avoid sanctions, Manila’s ambassador in Washington said on Monday.
The Philippine Department of National Defense confirmed last week it was formalizing the termination of a contract to purchase 16 Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopters from Russia, which had been worth about 12.7 billion pesos ($227.3 million). The deal was canceled earlier in June, just before President Rodrigo Duterte ended his six-year term.
“The United States has offered to try to come out with a similar amount that we’re willing to spend for the Russian helicopters, in other words, at a special price,” Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez told journalists in a virtual forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
Manila had canceled the deal with Russia to avoid US sanctions linked to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“This cancellation of this contract is precipitated mainly by the war in Ukraine. And 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,” Romualdez said.
Philippine officials are also pursuing discussions with Russia to recover its $38 million down payment for the helicopters, he added.
Romualdez said the deal with Washington will likely include maintenance, service and parts. Manila intends to use the helicopters not only for the movement of troops but also for disaster preparedness in the Philippines.
The Southeast Asian country is in the process of modernizing its outdated military hardware, which includes warships from World War II and helicopters used by the US in the Vietnam War, after Duterte approved a five-year plan to spend 300 billion pesos in June 2018 to upgrade the military.
The potential military deal comes as the new Philippine government under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. seeks to strengthen economic ties with the US, including in manufacturing, digital infrastructure and clean energy, Romualdez said.