Duterte to reconsider arms purchase from U.S.

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President Rodrigo Duterte (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday he will reconsider the purchase of arms from the United States, after its threats of sanctioning countries engaging in deals with Russia.

"China is good. Well, America has been helpful. 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 his friend, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, on Sonshine Media Network.

Earlier in the year, the President said the Philippines will look to allies from Israel and South Korea for the supply of arms. On May 30, Duterte said the U.S. has no "word of honor" after it held off selling arms to the Philippines.

Duterte, however, changed his mind on Saturday.

"We'll buy if we think we need that kind of particular [product]," it said.

However, the President clarified he will not abandon agreements made with Russia and China, since the two countries gave arms "practically [for] free" when the Philippines needed them.

"I'd like to say to the Americans and to the officials sa --- in Washington, when you deprived us of the arms, we started going around scouting for cheaper and better arms. And there were contracts already, memorandum of intent to buy something like that. So we will not impair that obligations," he said.

In 2016, the U.S. State Department halted the planned sale of some 26,000 to 27,000 M-4 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police after U.S. Democrat Senator Ben Cardin raised concerns over alleged human rights violations in the Philippines.

Duterte also said he will continue to honor the Philippines-U.S. military alliance, since he likes U.S. President Donald Trump.

"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," he said.

But Duterte asserted he will not let go of his ties with Russia and China, two of the U.S. rivals.

"They have not asked a military alliance. They have not asked for any special favors to operate in this country unlike the Americans," he said.

Duterte has been criticized for his foreign policy pivot towards China, which has refused to observe a 2016 arbitral ruling recognizing the Philippines' sovereign in its exclusive economic zone, where Beijing is encroaching.

Defense department welcomes development

The Department of National Defense welcomed the President's pronouncements.

In a phone interview, DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the announcement will modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines and would widen their options for procuring arms.

"We would like to thank him for making modernization of the AFP one of his priorities and of course having said that all of our procurement will have to undergo the process as stated in the law," he said.

In December, DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that government is eyeing the purchase of 16 U.S.-made Sikorsky Black Hawk combat utility helicopters worth $240 million, a month before Duterte declared a stop to the purchase of arms from the United States.