President Rodrigo Duterte is not keen on the United States’ offer of new military equipment in support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) modernization program.
The President made this statement in response to a letter signed by three US officials–Secretary Wilbur Ross of the Department of Commerce, Secretary Michael Pompeo of the US State Department and US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis–who all want to meet President Duterte to discuss the country’s military’s modernization program.
President Duterte said he is not interested in acquiring M16 rifles from the US. Duterte said he was also more interested in acquiring propeller planes for the anti-insurgency campaign.
In the first place, Duterte said he was unsure the US Congress would approve the arms deal to the Philippines.
“How sure are you that I will get what I ordered? If I bought a dozen M16 rifles, will they deliver them?” Duterte asked, directing the questions to the three senior US officials.
The letter, which came following Duterte’s pronouncement to secure military equipment from Russia, was read by the President before soldiers, local officials and guests during the 12th anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command at Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao camp in Panacan here on Thursday evening.
Still, Duterte said he was thinking of meeting the three US top officials as long as the venue is within the country.
The letter highlighted the country’s partnership with the US built on shared history and values. “This special relationship will only grow stronger by increasing our dialogue especially on security cooperation and trade,” the letter said.
He said Pompeo, Mattis, and Ross noted that Manila’s purchase of US military equipment would exemplify the US-Philippines continuing commitment to the breadth and the strength of the two countries’ alliance.
Duterte, however, said the Philippines and the US are friends because “you make us a colony many years ago. It’s a friendship imposed on us.”
He said the US will need to do more to prove its sincerity, as he recalled the suspension of an arms deal with the Philippines following a US senator’s criticism of the human rights situation in the Philippines.
The President has been distancing from the US, recalling how former US President Barrack Obama supposedly looked down on him and the Philippines over unfounded human rights violations as well as criticisms over the administration’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
He also recalled the procurement of six US refurbished choppers used by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), three of which already crashed and killed all the soldiers on board.
Duterte also demanded the return of the Balangiga Bells, which were taken by the US as a war trophy.
“Memory still haunts everybody here because it was taken with a blood of war,” he said. (Lilian C Mellejor/PNA)