THE Philippines defended its decision to buy arms from China and Russia because the United States won’t sell them to the government.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque was referring to a plan by President Rodrigo Duterte to buy military equipment from China and Russia, which offered soft loans to the Philippines payable until 2015.
“We had no choice but to buy from China and Russia. We are ready to buy from the US, but the US Congress prevented the sale,” Roque said.
Roque was referring to the move by the US State Department in November 2016 to stop the planned sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines over concerns of human rights violations arising from the Duterte administration’s drug war.
“[And] so, we will buy [military equipment]where we can,” Roque said.
China recently turned over four cargo planes, multi-million pesos worth of high-power assault and sniper rifles with ammunition, which the military used in defeating terrorists in the Marawi siege.
Russia also donated 20 military trucks, 5,000 units of AK-74M Kalashnikov assault rifles, one million units of ammunition and 5,000 units of steel helmets after Marawi was liberated in October.
But even after securing arms deals with Russia and China, the Philippines has not made a move to terminate its three standing military agreements with the United States: the 1951 Mutual Defense Agreement (MDT), the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) inked in February 2016.
The MDT states that both parties will defend themselves against external armed attack, while the VFA allows US troops to train and advise the Philippine military in its fight against terrorists but bans US forces in combat operations.
EDCA allows US forces, contractors, vehicles, vessels and aircraft to conduct activities on agreed locations inside Philippine military bases that include: training, transit, support and other related activities; refueling of aircraft, bunkering of vessels, temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications, prepositioning of equipment, supplies and material and deploying forces and materials. LLANESCA T. PANTI