Door cracks open for U.S.

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President Rodrigo Duterte has acceded to review his own order to avoid arms purchases from the United States (US) as he cited a new policy in which “America has been helpful.” The President ordered the government to avoid arms purchases from the US last January.

“In the purchase of arms, we have a bad experience but they have a new policy now. We’re going to reconsider,” Duterte said in an interview with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in Davao City last Friday.

In 2016, the US State Department also halted the sale of firearms to the Philippines over concerns on human rights violations in relation to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.
Mr. Duterte said when the Philippines stopped purchasing arms from the US, the government started looking for cheaper and better arms.

“We’ll buy if we think we need that kind of particular (hardware) but I’d like to say to the Americans and to the officials, in Washington, when you deprived us of the arms, we started going around scouting for cheaper and better alternative. And there were contracts already, memorandum of intent. So we will not impair (those) obligations,” he said.

He said he could not abandon deals signed by the Philippines with Russia and China, the two countries that provided assistance to the Philippines particularly during the five-month Marawi City siege in 2017.

“In the hour of our need, Russia and China gave it to us practically free,” Mr. Duterte said.

See you in heaven

“You know I’m a Filipino. You have to have a sense of gratitude. At least honor the contract. Nothing else,” he added.

The President also expressed readiness to cooperate with the US on its new policy to permanently stop immigration services in Manila but has no intention of ever going to war against China. He added that he has a high respect for US President Donald Trump.

“Do not ever think that the suspension of the processing for citizenship and special visas and all of these, there’s a deeper meaning to that,” Mr. Duterte said.

“But we are ready to cooperate. This I have to say, I will not go to war with anybody because that will be the end of the world,” he added.

Duterte, who described China as “good” and America “helpful”, also doubted that the two countries would go to war amid the ongoing trade dispute.

“America and China, they know that a war is the most useless thing in their arsenal,” Duterte said.

“When they say that, if you blow it all, it is 100 times bigger than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You think we will survive? See you in heaven,” he added.

Blackhawk on radar

The Department of National Defense (DND) immediately welcomed the President’s pronouncement saying it will “widen the choices for the acquisition of military hardware for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).”

Director Arsenio Andolong, DND spokesman, said among assets being eyed by the AFP from the US are helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.

“We welcome the President’s pronouncements and we would like to thank him for making modernization of the AFP one of his priorities,” Andolong said.

“That will of course widen our options now that the procurement from the US is opened. We will now be able to make our choices even better,” he added.

Andolong, however, maintained that all procurement will be compliant to the procurement law.

He also stressed that the opening of US option will not hamper procurement programs already in the pipeline.

Andolong said the DND is particularly keen on US’ Blackhawk helicopters and unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles ScanEagle.

“We are still looking to acquire more equipment of similar nature,” Andolong said.

Mr. Duterte also assured the US that the country’s alliance with the world superpower will be honored despite efforts to forge closer relations with China and Russia.

The Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty with the US that was sealed in August 1951.

“I’m just saying it because I like Trump and I would like to assure America that we will not do anything to hinder, hamper or whatever. We will go along with our alliances,” the President said.

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