Pentagon urges PH: Stick with US weapons despite Russia aid pledge

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 06 2019 12:56 PM | Updated as of Nov 06 2019 01:33 PM

Filipino soldiers unload firearms Manila bought from Washington at Camp Aguinaldo, July 17, 2019. Handout

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon urged Manila, its defense ally, to continue using US military equipment despite Russia's offer to boost the Philippines' defense capability. 

There is an "ongoing negotiation" between Manila and Moscow about "the purchase of certain military equipment," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said last month without providing additional details. 

The US is "not gonna obviously dictate to a sovereign nation," but it will be "a lot easier" to fight alongside its allies if they are using the same equipment, said US defense department spokesperson David Eastburn. 

"Obviously we have a deep history with the Philippines and we do a lot of interoperability, training, a lot of engagements, exercises with our Philippine counterparts and it’s easier to do it when we use the same equipment," he told reporters. 

In helping Manila increase its defense capabilities, Moscow "will never use our defense cooperation as a pretext to interfere into domestic affairs," Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev said last month. 

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The US can penalize allies which will buy weapons and equipment from Russia, noted Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez. 

The Pentagon should "come out with a good offer because we really need heavy lift helicopters especially for the disasters," he said. 

Moscow and Washington, the world's largest nuclear powers, have squabbled over various issues including tensions in Syria, the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and allegations of election meddling. 

Russia's ally China, meanwhile, is engaged in a trade war with the US and a territorial dispute with the Philippines over the South China Sea. 

While President Rodrigo Duterte "maintains his alliance with the US, he feels that [the] Philippines needs to open itself with all those countries willing to help," said Panelo.