MANILA — Ukraine on Thursday welcomed the Philippine government's move to scrap its order for 16 Russian military helicopters.
"We are very supportive of this decision. We are thankful for the Philippine government for making this decision," said Denys Mykhailiuk, Chargé d’affaires ad interim and Counsellor of the Embassy of Ukraine in Malaysia and to the Philippines.
"We do understand that the reasons might be not to support Ukraine, but to calculation of the profits and losses. But still, it’s very, very important and we see the Philippines as the, if not the biggest supporter for us in the region—I think Singapore is the most vocal supporter of us—but the second one," he added.
The Philippines agreed in November to pay P12.7 billion for the Mi-17 helicopters, as it sought to modernize its military hardware.
But the United States and its allies imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow in the wake of its assault on Ukraine in February. The sanctions are aimed at cutting off Russia from the global financial system and choking off funds available to Moscow to finance the war.
A longtime Washington ally, Manila said this month that it was "formalizing the termination" of the contract for the Russian helicopters.
Philippine ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez said the decision to cancel was triggered by "the Ukrainian war". He said Manila was also wary of falling foul of a US law passed in 2017 that sanctions anyone doing business with Russia's intelligence or defense sectors.
In February, the Philippines explicitly condemned the invasion of Ukraine and "strongly urge(d) the cessation of hostilities."
"We rely on the position of the Philippines because in the international fora, in the United Nations, we can count on you and we are very thankful and we will never forget," Ukraine's Mykhailiuk said.
Mykhailiuk said he looked forward to Kyiv opening an embassy in Manila and the Philippines opening an embassy in Ukraine, as previously committed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
He added that he hoped President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would attend the Summit on the International Crimean Platform planned for Aug. 23 in Europe, on the eve of Ukraine’s independence day.
“We hope that he will accept the invitation,” Mykhailiuk said.
He said he has asked the presidential office to establish a meeting or phone call between Marcos and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“We see the Philippines as the most important country for us in the South Asia, the most attractive trade partner,” Mykhailiuk said.
“We are working hard on (activating) contacts of all levels, starting from the president… between businesses and we are more than committed to establish government-to-government, government-to-business relations,” he added.
Mykhailiuk also invited Filipino investors to explore doing business in Ukraine “to secure food security” and deliveries of fertilizers to help promote the Philippine economy.
National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos meanwhile earlier said the Philippines would be neutral on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse