U.S. official warns PH vs buying Russian equipment

MANILA, Philippines – A high-ranking United States Defense official warned the Philippines against buying military equipment from Russia. 

"I think they should think very carefully about that," said Randall Schriver, United States Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.

Schriver was asked in a roundtable with reporters on Thursday, August 16, about his views on the Philippine defense department's plan to purchase heavy equipment from Russia, such as submarines. It's a turnaround from its long-standing reliance on its allies in the West, particularly the United States. (READ: PH pivot to Russia advances with port visit, submarine talks)

"If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don't think that's a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be," Schriver said. 

What's the deal about? The Philippines has been searching for submarines from several countries including South Korea and France, as it continues to modernize its defense forces.

In an earlier interview, defense chief Delfin Lorenzana said the deal will "more likely" be sealed with Russia, which Lorenzana said can supply their Kilo class subs 4 years after an agreement is signed. 

The planned pivot to Russia comes as the Philippines seeks to pursue an independent foreign policy under President Rodrigo Duterte and reduce its dependence on its former colonizer.

Why shouldn't the Philippines buy? The purchase would be seen as a negative statement on the Philippines' military alliance with the US, Schriver said. 

"[W]e have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don't need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK," Schriver said, referring to some of the widely condemned actions of Russia. 

"So you're investing not only in the platforms, but you're making a statement about a relationship," Schriver added. 

US wants to supply PH instead: Schriver said the Philippines, the US' oldest ally in Asia, should purchase from the world power, as their defense forces have so far been compatible. 

"Finding US platforms and US solutions helps us continue our interoperability, helps us improve our ability to operate in all kinds of scenarios," said the US defense official. 

Why is Schriver in Manila? He has been in the Philippines several times, but it's his first visit as an assistant secretary for defense. 

He is scheduled to meet with top defense and security officials, including Lorenzana. –  Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.