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Risk of US sanctions over Russia arms baffles Palace

Malacañang is baffled as to how the United States can impose sanctions on the Philippines if the country proceeds with the purchase of grenade launchers from a blacklisted Russian company.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that while the government would study the matter, he was curious as to how the United States could enforce sanctions on another sovereign state.


“Let me state the official position: We will study the matter,” he said in a press briefing on Thursday.

Domestic legislation


“But as a professor of international law and constitutional law, I do not know how they can enforce a US domestic legislation on a sovereign state, on a transaction that will not occur on US soil,” he added.

Roque was reacting to reports that the Philippines risked sanctions if it pushed through with a P400-million ($7.48 million) plan to purchase 750 rocket-propelled grenade launchers from a Russian company.

The United States blacklisted the state-owned Russian arms company, Rosoboronexport in April.

The US government started imposing sanctions last year against countries that trade with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

The move was designed to punish Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its support for Syria’s government and alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Past reliance on US

In previous years, the Philippines relied heavily on the United States for military hardware and technical support.


If the US were to impose sanctions on the Philippines for pushing through with the deal, Roque warned that it would be an example of “transnational legislation or extraterritorial legislation.”

“I do not know what will be the legal basis for us to be covered by this sanction. As a sovereign nation, in the exercise of a function of national defense, we have absolute immunity as a sovereign state,” he said.

He said he did not know how US laws could be applicable to a transaction that would be done outside the United States.

Goods in Russia

“The sale will be most likely in Russia, the goods are in Russia, and the delivery in the Philippines. So what is the relevance of US laws?” Roque said.

However, Malacañang is uncertain as to the fate of the deal to purchase grenade launchers from the Russian company.

“I do not know if it is a go. The official stand is we will study the matter. But offhand, I am giving the legal position of the Palace—that I do not see how we are bound by a US extraterritorial piece of legislation,” he said.

“It cannot be that US laws have the effect of superlaws applicable to anyone, even outside their jurisdiction, especially if the party is a sovereign state,” he added.

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TAGS: purchase of arms, Russian imports, trade sanctions, US sanctions
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