PH embassy in Washington, DC twits ‘groups’ trying to block arms sale to PH
By Darryl John Esguerra
INQUIRER.net
May 22, 2020 at 12:09 pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine embassy in Washington in the United States has defended the United States government’s renewed interest to sell military equipment to the Philippines.

The US government earlier approved the possible sale of Bell and Boeing attack helicopters to the Philippines, its long-time military ally and former colony, despite soured relations due to the scrapping of the two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

But certain groups have called for the stoppage of the possible arms sale, citing the Philippines’ human rights record under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Human Rights Watch said the US Congress should “block or delay” sales of almost $2 billion in attack helicopters and munitions to Manila “until the government adopts major reforms to end military abuses and hold those responsible to account,” adding that the Philippine military has a “deeply rooted culture of impunity.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate also took a swipe at the administration, noting that the country is already having difficulty finding funds for its COVID-19 response but had the temerity to still buy “war and killing machines like attack helicopters.”

In a statement Thursday, the embassy defended the arms sale and stressed that the Philippines’ defense modernization program has been pushed not only by the Duterte administration but also by previous Presidents.

It noted that the program is critical to national security and necessary to achieving a credible defense posture.

“This also makes the Philippines a more robust and effective security partner for  countries in the Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia regions, especially at a time of traditional and emerging security challenges,” the embassy said.

“It is unfortunate that certain groups seek to take advantage of this issue to advance their own political agenda, even to the detriment of the long-standing alliance between the Philippines and the United States,” it added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier welcomed the US move but noted that the government will look at other options to ensure that the budget for helicopters is used properly.

The Philippines has set aside some P300 billion to upgrade its military capability.

The US embassy stressed that bilateral relationship between Washington and Manila remains “strong in many areas and anchored on mutual respect.”

“The defense modernization program of the Philippine government will continue to be an important aspect of the bilateral relations between our two countries,” it noted.

The approval of the possible arms sale comes at an uncertain point in the decades-old relations between the two countries.

In February, Duterte ordered the termination of the VFA which provided legal framework to US troops who were rotated in the country for military exercises and humanitarian assistance operations.

EDV

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