Philippines has ordered 12 helicopters from Russia

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President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte said 12 helicopters from Russia will soon be added to the Philippines' military arsenal.

In an interview with a Russian television network that aired Friday, Duterte explained that the plan to purchase military equipment from Russia has been delayed due to budget constraints.

"There's always not enough to go around with... Just because Russia is a friend, it doesn’t follow that we abscond or do not pay our debts," Duterte said.

"But we have placed the orders now — 12 military helicopters, cargo choppers," he said.

Last year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it was considering buying 16 chopper units as well as arms from Russia as part of its modernization program, which Duterte wants completed before his term ends in 2023.

Duterte's foreign policy has been described as a pivot towards Russia and China and away from the US, a longstanding ally whose government officials have criticized some of his policies.

In several speeches, Duterte has credited Russia for giving the Philippines arms, while chiding the US for holding off an arms deal amid human rights concerns surrounding his drug war.

READ: PH-Russia work towards stronger defense ties

The United States had been the Philippines' biggest supplier of weapons until it stopped the planned sale of 20,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police in 2016 – after an American senator raised concerns over alleged extrajudicial killings in Duterte's drug war.

Duterte has since criticized weapons from the US, saying some of them were of bad quality. In June last year, he said he would reconsider buying from the US again because he was fond of its President, Donald Trump.

Russia, the world’s second largest arms exporter, has donated defense gear to the Philippines in a bid to expand its arms market in Southeast Asia.