Defense chief: PH 'neutral' on Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday said the Philippines will remain neutral for now as Russia unleashes deadly military attacks on Ukraine.

He said authorities are closely watching the developments in Ukraine, but refused to issue a strong statement against Russia and its president Vladimir Putin despite earlier rebuke from various world leaders.

The Philippines' Asian neighbors, such as Japan and Taiwan, strongly condemned Russia on Friday, declaring that they will impose economic sanctions on Russia.

"Wala naman tayong pakialam sa Europe kung ano ang ginagawa nila doon, hindi naman tayo katabi ng Ukraine. Yung mga bansang karatig, nagpapahayag ng suporta sa Ukraine. Tayo neutral muna tayo ngayon," he said in an interview.

[Translation: We are not located beside Ukraine and it's none of our business to meddle in whatever they're doing in Europe. The nearby countries have expressed support for Ukraine. The Philippines will stay neutral for now.]

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The defense chief said he is not worried that the Philippines will be embroiled in the war. The country's troops, he noted, are devising contingency plans.

"Ganon pa man ay naghahanda tayo. 'Yung Armed Forces meron silang mga plano, gumagawa sila ng plano saka-sakali man magkakagulo. Hindi lang doon, kundi pati dito sa lugar natin ay handa tayo," Lorenzana said.

[Translation: Nevertheles, we are preparing. The Armed Forces are crafting plans in case of conflict. Not just for the war there, but we are also readying here.]

He argued that the crisis will most likely affect the Philippines in terms of fuel prices.

After months of military buildup, Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday with a multi-pronged attack.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said later that day that according to preliminary figures, at least 137 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 316 soldiers were wounded.

CNN Philippines correspondent Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.