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Opinion

Refundable?

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

Before the end of former president Rodrigo Duterte's term, former Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana canceled the purchase of 16 Mi-17 helicopters from Russia, fearing the United States would impose sanctions on the Philippines due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The deal was signed before Russia invaded Ukraine. America has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia and the close billionaire friends of Russia President Vladimir Putin.

Now, the DND wants to have a "diplomatic dialogue" with Russia to formalize the termination of the contract, as well as the reimbursement of the ?1.9-billion-peso downpayment. I believe this is where a problem may arise. Russia is in the middle of an unjust war. The belief that Russia would only take a matter of days to occupy and defeat Ukraine did not happen. Ukraine has fought hard with the help of some countries that gave them modern weapons. The war has been going on for more than five months.

War is expensive. Every day this goes on, millions are spent or lost when equipment breaks down or is destroyed. And because America and some European countries imposed severe sanctions on Russia, the Russian economy is struggling. There are those who do not want to buy their oil and gas. Their currency is not accepted by some countries. So, to terminate a contract and ask to return the downpayment for the helicopters might not sit well with the Russian government. The downpayment is short of $35 million. Perhaps instead of returning the money to us, they might use it in the fight against Ukraine.

Why did the Duterte administration choose the Mi-17? Is it because of Duterte’s wanting to be on the good side of Putin? Now the whole world knows what kind of a man Putin is. The Mi-17 is a good, heavy-lift helicopter, no argument there. The AFP needs a helicopter that can handle heavy loads which will be most useful during times of calamities. Being able to fly in a sizeable load of relief goods, and perform search and rescue operations is crucial in a country like ours which is no stranger to natural calamities or disasters. In fact, there should be at least one or two for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. But there are comparable ones out there, not necessarily from the US.

As the AFP continues its modernization, all aspects must be considered, including politics, in the purchase of equipment or weapons. This is not the time to do business with Russia. Whether the downpayment is refundable is something we have yet to see.

RODRIGO DUTERTE

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