27 September 2016

Russia Arms Deal Eyed

27 September 2016

Duterte plans to purchase night attack helicopters and patrol boats for the AFP (photo : Max Bryansky)

MOSCOW is planning to donate or loan military equipment and technology to Manila, only days after President Rodrigo Duterte said he would go to Russia or China if the United States did not like his “dirty mouth.”

Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta announced the plan after he met with Russian officials over how the two countries could boost trade and security cooperation as Duterte discussed with Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev last May.

At the same time, the US State Department also announced on Saturday that Washington approved the release of $6.725 million (more than P300 million) from the $32 million fund that US State Secretary John Kerry pledged during his visit to Manila last July.

Sorreta said the plan to donate or loan military equipment was discussed when he and vice consul Luningning Camoying were briefed by officials of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC).

The FSMTC is a federal agency directly under the Office of the President of the Russian Federation responsible for control and oversight in the field of military-technical cooperation between the Russian Federation and foreign countries.

Russian officials who hosted the briefing are First Department on Military and Technical Cooperation with Foreign States chief Serggey Buganov; and Section on Military-Technical Cooperation with Countries of the Asia-Pacific Region chief Valery Orel.

“We welcomed the briefing, which was quite revealing, particularly the extent that Russia is able to interact with a large number of countries in this field and the different mechanisms that are employed, including acquisition and transfer of Russian military equipment,” Soretta said.

“This is all part of our job to explore opportunities that could contribute to our government’s efforts to modernize our defense capabilities,” Sorreta said.

Aside from the military equipment and technology, Sorreta said Russia is also willing to provide training, after-sales service and maintenance, transfer of technology, investment in domestic military production and servicing and different modes of financing.

Sorreta and Camoying were briefed after a similar meeting between a Department of National Defense delegation, led by Undersecretary for Finance and Materiel Raymundo de Vera Elefante, and Russian defense officials including officials of the FSMTC.

The talks with Russia developed after Duterte met with Russian Ambassador Khovaev, who met with Duterte in Davao City a few days after the May 9 elections.

Khovaev said he was impressed by Duterte during a “very productive” meeting where they discussed how to jump-start Philippine-Russian relations which officially started only in 1976.

Khovaev said that it was “time for Russians to discover the Philippines, and it is time for the Philippines to discover Russia,” adding that strengthened trade cooperation could begin before the end of this year.

The Russian envoy said there is much potential in the two country’s bilateral ties because “there were no disputes and no contradictions” and only develop “cooperation in practical terms.”

Meanwhile, the US, through State Assistant Secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement William Brownfield the $6.7 million fund was meant to boost law enforcement in the Philippines.

In an interview with online news site Rappler, Brownfield said the fund was part of the $32 million that Kerry pledged for law enforcement training and services. 

US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said that $4.665 million of the larger amount “is set to be transferred soon, via an Interagency Agreement, from INL to the US Coast Guard.”

This funding aims “to support maritime security in the Philippines.”

“There is additional money which was previously appropriated by Congress for use in the Philippines, but no decisions have to be made on that funding’s use until next year,” Rappler quoted the INL as saying.

(Manila Standard)

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