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Philippines scraps Russian chopper deal fearing US sanctions

“We do not see any likelihood of it being scrapped as of this moment” and added that “only time can tell.”

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Manila: The Philippine government has announced the scrapping of a deal to purchase 16 Russian military transport helicopters, fearing possible US sanctions, Khaleej Times reported on Thursday.

Earlier, former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that he had canceled the 12.7-billion-peso deal to acquire the Mi-17 helicopters in a decision last month that was approved by then-President Rodrigo Duterte, before their terms in office ended on June 30, adding “We could face sanctions,” fearing Washington could express its displeasure if the Philippines proceeded with the deal, due to America’s worsening conflict with Russia.

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American security officials were aware of Manila’s decision, and could offer similar heavy-lift helicopters for Philippine military use, he said.

After serving as Defense Chief under Duterte, Lorenzana has been appointed— by the new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr— to head a government agency in charge of transforming former military bases into business hubs.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said that the deal was canceled because Manila could face possible sanctions under a US federal law called the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act if the helicopter deal went through.

A Philippine military official said the helicopter deal would undergo a “termination process” after the decision to cancel it was made since a contract has already been signed.

The Russians can appeal but there is little room for the Philippine government to reconsider, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to publicly discuss the issue.

Under the helicopter purchase agreement, which was signed in November, the first batch of the multi-purpose helicopters would have been scheduled for delivery by Russia’s Sovtechnoexport in about two years.

Asked in March if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would affect the purchase, Lorenzana told reporters: “We do not see any likelihood of it being scrapped as of this moment” and added that “only time can tell.”

Lorenzana at the time said an initial payment had been made by the Philippines in January. It was not immediately clear what would happen to the payment after the Philippines’ decision to back out of the deal.

The Russian-made helicopters could have been used for combat, search and rescue operations, and medical evacuations in the southeast Asian archipelago, which is often lashed by typhoons and other natural disasters, Philippine officials said.

In March, the Philippines voted in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution that demanded an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops. It condemned the invasion and echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal for respect for humanitarian principles to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

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