Libanan offers easy solution to DND's Russian helicopter problem

House Minority Leader and 4Ps Party-list Rep. Marcelino Libanan is proposing an easy way out for the Philippines regarding its cancelled order for 16 Russian military heavy-lift helicopters worth a total of P12.7 billion.

The Russian flag (Unsplash)

Before the cancellation, the Philippines had already forked out a downpayment of P1.9 billion, which begs the question: What now?

“Instead of clawing back the P1.9 billion down payment for the cancelled order – which might be difficult if not impossible – we would urge the DND (Department of National Defense) to try to get at least one helicopter plus spare parts delivered in return for the money,” Libanan said in a statement Monday, Oct. 24.

"This way, the Philippine government's money does not go to waste, and Russia does not have to worry about reimbursing us the funds. This is a practical and sensible solution that could offer both parties a happy ending," said the solon from Bicol.

“Based on the cancelled order, each helicopter costs around P800 million, and the balance of P1.1 billion may be recovered in the form of supplies of spare parts,” Libanan explained.

Last July, former DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he cancelled the deal to acquire the Russian helicopters in a decision reached in June that was approved by then-President Rodrigo Duterte before their terms in office ended on the 30th of that month.

The cancellation was due to fears of possible United States (US) sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to Lorenzana.

When the House of Representatives deliberated on the proposed 2023 national budget last month, Libanan had asked the DND for an update on the aborted procurement of the Russian helicopters.

The DND, through budget sponsor Negros Occidental 6th district Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, told the plenary that the government remains unsure if it can still recover the P1.9 billion advance payment for the scrapped deal.

The Russian helicopters were meant to build up the Philippine Air Force’s chopper fleet for the transport of troops, equipment and supplies, medical evacuation, and disaster relief operations.

Each helicopter can carry 24 soldiers, or 12 stretchers, or even small vehicles. With an internal payload capacity of four tons, the chopper can also alternatively carry up to three tons of underslung loads.