Russia eyes joint weapons production with the Philippines – envoy

JC Gotinga
Russia eyes joint weapons production with the Philippines – envoy
The Philippines will be the exporter of advanced small weapons, says Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev, as he promises cooperation with ‘no political conditions’

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines may soon be making and exporting Russian-type guns if a proposal from Moscow pushes through, said Russia Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev on Tuesday, October 22.

“We have a very good proposal for you Filipinos. We are ready to organize joint production of Russian sophisticated light arms and small weapons here in the Philippines,” Khovaev told reporters in a briefing at his residence in Makati City.

“You Filipinos will produce Russian arms and weapons…. They will be Philippine products based on Russian technologies,” he added.

Khovaev said Russia wants to build “a long-term strategic cooperation with the Philippines,” and that President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Moscow and Sochi earlier in October was “full of milestones and landmarks” in the nascent partnership between the two countries. 

One key area of cooperation both countries wish to expand is defense and security.

“We are ready to supply our sophisticated technologies in order to help your country develop your own defense industry,” the envoy said.

Khovaev said both governments have started “bilateral negotiations” on the plan that would also involve private partners, and that he hoped it would materialize “as soon as possible.”

“The Philippines will be the exporter of advanced small arms and light weapons,” the envoy added.

Helicopters, submarines

Khovaev confirmed the Philippines and Russia are “actively working” on the acquisition of several Mi-171 Russian helicopters for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Although it is too early to discuss delivery timelines and exact quantities, the diplomat said he believes the outcome of negotiations “will be positive,” and that Russia is “ready to supply as many as you want” – that is, as many as the Philippine government could afford.

The Philippines “has the right” to have its own submarines because it is an archipelago, and Russia is “ready to supply” submarines at “very competitive prices,” Khovaev added.

Apart from hardware acquisitions, Russia also looks to increase military-to-military exchanges with the Philippines, the envoy said.

Russia is willing to offer military education by welcoming Filipino cadets to train in its military institutions, and it is ready to organize joint military exercises with the AFP.

“All options are on the table,” Khovaev said, adding that his country’s offers of cooperation come with “no political conditions.”

‘Human rights or something like that’

Early into his term, Duterte reached out to Russia and China as he toughened his rhetoric toward the United States, supposedly to forge an “independent foreign policy” that is less centered around the Philippines’ most prominent traditional ally.

Duterte has visited Russia twice, in May 2017 and October 2019, aiming to broaden cooperation in different areas, including energy, labor, and security.

Khovaev said the Russian energy giant Rosneft started discussions with Philippine energy officials after Duterte invited it to conduct joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea and other parts of the Philippines.

Unlike the US and most other western powers, Russia has not criticized any of Duterte’s controversial policies, such as his war on drugs, which has killed more than 20,000 people, according to international human rights advocates.

Duterte tends to bristle at every critical comment from the international community, to the point of threatening to sever ties with foreign governments, or to refuse cooperation and aid from them.

“We’ll never teach anyone human rights or something like that, and we’ll never use our defense cooperation as a pretext to interfere, to meddle into domestic affairs of other sovereign states. It’s not possible at all,” Khovaev said without explicitly referring to any other country.

“Everything will be done in compliance with international law. I believe this cooperation will contribute to regional peace and stability,” the Russian envoy added. – Rappler.com

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.