MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines has been forced to turn to China and Russia for arms supplies because of conditions imposed by its long-time ally and former colonial ruler the United States, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday.
The United States has provided its defence treaty ally with most of its major hardware, like ships, fighters, helicopters and small arms, but the Philippines was now looking to China and Russia for drones, planes, fast boats and rifles to fight Maoist-led rebels and Islamist militants behind an unrelenting spree of piracy and kidnapping, he said.
Lorenzana said acquiring weapons and equipment from the United States had become difficult because the process was slow and there were conditions tied to sales.
“That’s why we are discouraged from getting from them because of these conditions,” Lorenzana told reporters in Beijing.
“We need airplanes, we need drones, we need fast boats,” he said. “We need them in the south so that we can deter kidnappings and bring about development.”
Weapons procurements could also be complicated by bipartisan attempts by some U.S. lawmakers to ban the transfer of arms to the Philippines that could be used in a war on drugs that has killed thousands of Filipinos, and has been condemned by Western governments.
At the sidelines of a Belt and Road summit in Beijing, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday met several Chinese state-owned corporations, including a defence contractor blacklisted by Washington for selling to Iran items that were banned under U.S. laws.
Duterte, who is working hard to strengthen ties with China, has admitted he has a grudge against the United States and complained at what he says is useless U.S. “hand-me-down” merchandise.
Lorenzana confirmed China’s Poly Group Corporation and Poly Technologies were among companies which called on the firebrand leader, and the defence ministry would send a technical team to look at the Chinese equipment.
China has offered to donate $14 million worth of military hardware to the Philippines, plus a soft loan for $500 million in Chinese arms.
He said the Philippines had only planned to use China’s money if the military’s five-year 100 billion peso ($2 billion) budget for modernisation was insufficient.
He is due to sign a defence agreement with his Russian counterpart next week for possible purchases of weapons and drones. The Philippines is also acquiring drones from Israel.
($1 = 50 pesos)
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie