Lorenzana now in Russia to check out military equipment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 22) — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is currently in Russia to scout around for military hardware as part of the government's efforts to boost the armed forces' modernization program.

The Secretary's itinerary includes touring a military expo to check out the latest Russian defense hardware.

The Defense Department said aside from firearms and ammunition, the Philippines is also interested in buying helicopters and possibly the country's first submarines.

"We cannot afford nuclear powered submarines. I think that is the stand of the president that do not use vessels, that carry nuclear reactors at the moment," Arsenio Andolong, the agency's spokesperson, said.

Submarines are seen to boost territorial defense in regional waters, especially for maritime nations like the Philippines.

Navy Chief Robert Empedrad said submarines will deter bullying by other nations.

Russia is offering its diesel-electric kilo-class submarines, which it is willing to sell the through a soft loan, possibly with zero interest.

Andolong, however, clarified that the two countries have yet to arrive at an agreement.

"Wala pang agreement. It was an offer made by the Russia, and we are now taking a look at the hardware they are offering," he said.

The Russian government, through its defense minister, last year floated the idea of providing the Philippines with submarines.

Other countries like Germany, South Korea, France, Indonesia, and India also expressed interest in becoming the country's supplier of the warship.

Lorenzana's trip to Moscow, however, gives Russia the advantage to show off their merchandise.

The President Rodrigo Duterte has also previously expressed interest in what Russia has to offer.

The official trip also comes a day after a U.S. top official discouraged the Philippines from purchasing submarines from Russia.

U.S. Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver on Tuesday said doing so would not be "a helpful thing to the alliance" of the Philippines with the U.S.

Duterte, however, shrugged off the warning and hit back at Schriver.

"You meet me in a forum and I will invite everybody interested. You state your case why you are against my country acquiring submarines. Give me a reason why and make it public," Duterte said in a speech in Davao City.