'No pressure from US' to cancel PH-Russia helicopter deal, says Ambassador Romualdez

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez has made it clear that there was no pressure that came from the US when the ​Philippines decided to cancel its helicopter deal with Russia amid its conflict with Ukraine.

Instead, it was only a "practical thing" for the country to do so because "it is cheaper for us in the end," Romualdez added.

The Philippine envoy made the clarification on Monday in an online forum with Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) following reports that the government scrapped its contract with Russia for the procurement of 16 Russian military helicopters as part of the Philippines' modernization of its military assets.

The government reportedly paid P12.7 billion ($228 million) in November for the purchase of Mi-17 helicopters. In a recent interview with reporters, former Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he was not sure if the Philippines could still take back the money.

"There was no pressure. It was made clear from the very beginning, especially during the Ukraine situation, that the United States and their western allies are putting a lot of sanctions against Russia. Everybody knows that," Romualdez said.

"If you buy anything from Russia, you would be sanctioned," he added.

According to Romualdez, it was still a cheaper option for the country to just let go of its initial payment than suffering from the sanctions that could be imposed by the US and its western allies.

"Our banks will be affected by that sanction because of the remittance that will be made and so forth and so on," he said.

"So the pressure wasn't really more on coming from the United States but the pressure is really on us. Do we want to go through that difficulty especially if we have overseas workers who are using our financial system? Do we want to be sanctioned by the major countries, western countrie,. where we have a lot of workers?" he added.

Romualdez said Duterte made a prudent move when it approved the cancellation of the contract because "it would save us a lot of trouble in the end."