Duterte says to reconsider purchasing US weapons

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2019 06:25 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte chats with US President Donald Trump during the gala dinner hosted by the Philippines for leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states and dialogue partners at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, November 12, 2017. Karl Norman Alonzo, Malacañang Photo/File


MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said he would reconsider purchasing weapons from the United States, since he "likes" US President Donald Trump.

This after he said earlier this year that Manila would no longer procure weapons from its traditional ally after Washington threatened to impose sanctions on countries buying military equipment from Russia. 

The Philippines had announced plans of defense procurement from Russia. 

"In the purchase of arms, we have a bad experience but they have a new policy now. We are going to reconsider," Duterte said in an interview on Sonshine Media Network at dawn Saturday. 

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

Days before he announced his reconsideration, Duterte lambasted the US for not keeping its word that it would sell weapons to the Philippines.

Now, Duterte said Manila would continue to honor its traditional alliance with the US under Trump. The Philippines and the US have a nearly 68-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty. 

"I like Trump and I would like to assure America that we will not do anything to hinder, hamper or whatever," he said.

"We are ready to cooperate, but this I have to say: I will not go to war with anybody," he said.

Duterte underscored that the Philippines would not distance itself from China and Russia, two countries that are engaged in tensions with the US.

"We will go along with our alliances but to me, China and Russia are not enemies because 'yung hindi dineliver ng Americano (what the Americans failed to deliver), that was the time I went to Russia, only to ask President Xi Jinping to give me a credit line ke wala akong pera (because I have no money)," he said.

In 2016, the US State Department halted the planned sale of some 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippine National Police after US Sen. Ben Cardin said he would oppose it over concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines.

"When we needed in the hour of our need, Russia and China gave it to us practically free," Duterte said.

"To this day, they have not even asked for even one penny as payment," he said.

"They have not asked a military alliance. They have not asked for special favors to operate in this country, unlike the Americans," he said, noting that the country's alliance with the US has allowed American troops to have several bases in the Philippines over the years.

Duterte said his gratefulness to Russia and China would not go beyond contracts. 

"I'm a Filipino. I have to have a sense of gratitude, at least honor the contract. Nothing else," Duterte said.

"You do not have to praise China and side with [them vs] America," he said.

The US and China are pitted in a trade war, while several American politicians and groups alleged that Russia meddled with the results of the 2016 presidential elections that catapulted Trump into power.

Duterte has established closer ties with the two US rivals as part of his foreign policy pivot. 

In particular, he has sought to enhance the country's ties with China despite the unresolved dispute over the South China Sea, where Beijing has stepped up militarization and island-building activities, encroaching into the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.