PH ‘closely monitoring’ Russia-Ukraine war; to remain neutral ‘for now’ – Lorenzana

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has the world’s defense and military leaders’ undivided attention but the Philippines took on a neutral stance while closely monitoring the development in Eastern Europe.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Photo courtesy of Department of National Defense)

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday, Feb. 25, that the national government will not take any side between the two warring countries “for now” although he noted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “is prepared” in case tension escalates and the violence spreads in other countries.

“We are going to be neutral for now,” Lorenzana said in an interview during the inauguration of a new rapid exit taxiway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“On our part, we will closely watch what’s happening there and be prepared. We have nothing to do with Europe or whatever they are doing, we are not near the borders of Ukraine,” he added.

The Defense chief was also convinced that Russia’s full-scale military assault on Ukraine will not have a major security impact in the Philippines. However, he cited the possible skyrocketing of oil prices as the conflict poses a possible major disruption to the world’s energy supply.

“I think we have no security concern, or that we will be involved . The armed forces has a plan, they crafted a plan in case the violence grows not only there but also in our country. We are prepared for that,” Lorenzana said.

The DND and the Russian government has an ongoing procurement deal as part of the AFP's modernization program.

The DND is planning to buy 16 units of the Soviet-designed Mil Mi-17 heavy lift helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF), and Lorenzana believes the Ukraine conflict will not affect this procurement.

However, the Philippines appears to be in a difficult situation since military superpower United States was among the countries that condemned and vowed to imposed heavy economic sanctions on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine. US is a close ally of the Philippines.

Aside from the military aspect, the government is also considering the welfare of about 300 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are either working or living in Ukraine.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had said that the Philippine embassy in Warsaw, Poland already mobilized a consular team to help in the rescue and repatriation of displaced OFWs in Ukraine.