MANILA — The Philippines is going back to the drawing board by procuring heavy-lift helicopters.
This, after the previous administration decided to terminate a contract with a Russian company for the purchase of 16 units of Mi-17 helicopters for the Philippine Air Force, the ministry spokesman said on Friday. of National Defence, Arsenio Andolong.
Andolong said DND has reconstituted a Contract Termination and Review Committee (CTRC) to formalize the withdrawal of the military supply contract worth 12.7 billion pesos.
“The previous administrator started the termination process. Sec. Lorenzana sent a note or letter to the Russian side expressing the intention of the PH government to cancel the project. In this sense, the termination has already been expressed , although there are procedures that must be followed to formalize this because a contract has been signed. There must be a process to close this particular contract,” the defense official told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo.
The deal was signed under the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte in November 2021.
Even then, Andolong noted, there were other supporters of the project, but the Russian Mi-17 was chosen because of its relatively spacious cabin and more affordable cost.
The DND spokesman said transport helicopters are a critical part of AFP, as the Philippines is an archipelagic nation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, helicopters have often been used to transport people, equipment and even vaccines.
Alluding to the potential consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February, Andolong noted that the project had been abandoned by the previous administration due to “changes in priorities necessitated by global political developments”.
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), countries with major deals with Russia’s defense industry would be economically sanctioned.
In January this year, the Philippines had made an initial payment of 1.9 billion pesos for the project.
When asked if DND was confident it could recoup the payment already made to Russia, Andolong replied, “‘Yan ang hindi ko pa masagot sa ngayon. Ngayon pa lang umuupo mga opisyal ng DND.
(I can’t answer that now. New DND officials have just started their work. But it has already been started by OIC Faustino and CTRC.)
Asked again – hypothetically – what the country can do in case it doesn’t get the money back from Russia, Andolong replied: , will do its due diligence and do everything in its power to at least find a solution na hindi tayo agrabyado.”
(It’s hard to answer. I also don’t know the process if this were to happen. As for DND, especially the CTRC, they will do their due diligence and do whatever they can to at least find a solution to avoid a situation where we are losers.)
DND is preparing to enter into diplomatic dialogue with the Russian side to resolve issues arising from the cancellation of the project, including the down payment issue.