By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippine government still has limited funds but will guarantee “prompt” payment for the purchase of helicopters from Russia, President Duterte recently said.
The President gave the assurance that the government would not take advantage of its friendship with Russia and “abscond” from the deal to acquire air assets.
“We had our priorities. I was buying for 12 cargo helicopters and you know we are not a rich country. However, we programmed the funds of government, how to budget it. There’s not always not enough to go around with,” Duterte said in a recent interview over RT, a Russian media network.
“I’m sure we will have to make the down payment and be prompt in our (payment). Just because Russia is a friend, it doesn’t follow that we abscond or do not pay our debts,” he said.
Last year, reports surfaced that the military is reportedly interested in buying 16 Mi-17 medium-lift Russian helicopters from Russia as part of its modernization program. The helicopter deal is reportedly estimated to cost the government US$235 million.
In the media interview, Duterte explained that government was still short of the funds needed for the helicopter acquisition.
“It’s still money, and we are really short of it, actually. We are not that rich,” he said. “But we have placed the orders now — 12 military helicopters, cargo choppers.”
Meanwhile, the President pushed for closer trade and investment relations between the Philippines and Russia.
Duterte, who has veered away from the United States, said he appreciated allies like Russia and China because they respect the country’s sovereignty.
“I’m sure Russia could come here and look for viable businesses than can help Russia. We do not consider the distance as a limit in our friendship in our desire to be a partner of Russia and the rest of the eastern countries in trade and commerce,” he said.
“We don’t think that the distance is on the minus side. It’s a plus side and nothing can really be a hindrance if you really want to do it with another country.”
Duterte has made two official trips to Russia since he assumed the presidency in 2016.
He first paid a visit to Moscow in May 2017, but cut the trip short to deal with the deadly terror siege in Marawi City.
Last October, he made his second visit to Russia where he sought closer bilateral economic and defense cooperation and secured more than P620 million worth of business deals.
Putin earlier told Duterte that he considers the Philippines “a very important partner of Russia in Asia,” citing the constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.
Duterte, for his part, affirmed the Philippines’ strong commitment to a robust and comprehensive partnership with Russia based on mutual respect, trust, and pragmatism.