MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, September 9, slammed the United States' defense assistance to the Philippines, saying the equipment given by Manila's former colonial ruler only served a "ceremonial" purpose and was just for show.
In a speech tinged with sarcasm before the Filipino community in Indonesia, Duterte cited in particular the delivery of two FA-50 fighter jets to the Philippines.
"We have received so many things from America. Thank you for your generosity. What they sold us, two, only two FA-50 (fighter jets). It’s FA-50 but they never gave us the missiles and the bullets and the cannons to fight. For ceremonial lang (only)," he said.
The FA-50 jets that the President is referring to, however, did not come from the US, but were bought, brand new, from South Korea.
The two FA-50s arrived in the Philippines in November 2015 – the first two of the total 12 fighter jets that will be delivered to the Philippines until 2017.
The arrival of the FA-50 jets marked the Philippines' return to the supersonic age, a decade since it retired the last of its F-5 fighters in 2005.
The Korean Aerospace Industry describes the FA-50 as a "light combat derivative of the T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer."
Waste of money?
Earlier this year, Duterte had branded the purchase of the FA-50s as a "waste of money" because, he said, they could only be used for ceremonies.
"You cannot use them for anti-insurgency, which is the problem at the moment. You can only use these for ceremonial fly-by," he was quoted saying at a business forum in June.
He added that the jets would not be enough to match China's military might.
In his Friday speech, Duterte may have been referring not to the FA-50s from South Korea, but to the F-16 fighter jets from the US.
In 2014, Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr said that the military had been eyeing the F-16s, but decided not to go through with the purchase because of high maintenance costs.
The multipurpose fighter for the Philippine Air Force can carry 4.5 tons of weapons and is equipped with Night Vision Imaging System, Radar Warning Receiver, and the Counter Measure Dispenser System.
The fighter jets are just a part of the other military assets bought under the Aquino administration to achieve "minimum credible defense," prompted by the looming threat of China's aggressiveness in the contested South China Sea. (READ: P75-B boost for PH Navy to resist bullies)
But Duterte has adopted a different stance toward China and the US, a longtime ally with whom Manila signed a defense deal in 2014.
Earlier this week, Duterte drew global attention with his expletive-laden comments that, he claimed, were wrongly interpreted by the media as being directed at US President Barack Obama.
He had also hit the world superpower for its atrocities committed against Filipinos back when the Philippines was still a US colony.
Meanwhile, Duterte was all praises for China for its "generosity" to the Philippines and for pledging its support to his war against drugs.
The two Sherpa 30-seater aircraft are set to be delivered in December. – Rappler.com