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Philippines to buy American helicopters after scrapping Russia deal over US sanctions

File photo of CH-47 Chinook military helicopters taking part in joint "African Lion" war games by US and Moroccan Special Forces near the city of Tifnit in southwestern Morocco. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippines is in talks to buy US-made heavy-lift Chinook helicopters after scrapping a deal with Russia worth $227.35 million for the fear of US sanctions linked to the Ukraine conflict.

Unveiling the potential deal to purchase American helicopters, the Philippine ambassador to Washington, Jose Manuel Romualdez, disclosed on Monday that the cancellation of the Russia deal was pushed by the US and its western allies over the Ukraine conflict.

"The cancellation of this contract is precipitated mainly by the war in Ukraine,” Romualdez declared while explaining the reason for the broken deal. 

“While there are sanctions expected to come our way, from the United States and western countries, obviously it is not in our interest to continue and pursue this contract."

Manila scrapped the deal to buy 16 Mi-17 Russian military transport helicopters in June -- just days before then-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ended his six-year term in office – due to fears of facing US sanctions linked to Russia's special military operation in Ukraine, which began in February.

Romualdez noted that Chinook helicopters would replace the existing hardware used for the movement of troops and disaster preparedness in the Southeast Asian country.

He also underlined that the US would be willing to strike a deal for the amount Manila was set to spend on the Russian helicopters, adding the potential purchase from Washington will likely include maintenance, service, and parts.

Meanwhile, the Philippines is seeking talks with Moscow to recover its $38 million down payment for the Russian helicopters, the delivery of which was due to begin in November 2022, 24 months after the contract was inked.

The Philippines is at the tail-end of a five-year, 300 billion-pesos ($5.37 billion) modernization of its outdated military hardware that includes warships from World War II and helicopters used by the US in the Vietnam War.

Other than military deals, the Philippines -- under the current President Ferdinand Marcos Jr -- also intends to increase its economic exchanges with the United States in fields such as manufacturing, digital infrastructure and clean energy, including modular nuclear power, Romualdez further stated.

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