“You want us to remain backward?”
An irritated President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the United States should not question any decision by Manila to acquire modern weapons from countries other than the United States.
He was responding to a US defense official who warned that the Philippines would risk hurting its alliance with the United States if it acquired weapons systems, including submarines, from Russia.
“Why? Did you stop other countries? Why are you stopping us? … You’re warning us, who are you to warn us?” he said in a speech in Davao City during the Hugpong ng Pagbabago convention.
Mr. Duterte was responding to statements on Thursday by US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver, whom he challenged to say to him face to face why the Philippines should not acquire war materiel from Moscow.
“You meet me in a forum. You state your case why you are against my country acquiring [a] submarine. You give me the reason why and make it public,” he said.
“Is that how you want to treat an ally? And you want us to stay with you all the time?” Mr. Duterte asked.
He said he would ask US President Donald Trump himself the same questions “if I get to see him.”
More advanced neighbors
Pointing out that the Philippines’ neighbors in Southeast Asia had more advanced military equipment, he added: “You want us to remain backward?”
“Vietnam has seven [submarines], Malaysia has two, Indonesia has about eight. We’re the only ones without [submarines],” Mr. Duterte said.
The President was reportedly looking at purchasing submarines from Russia, although the military was already looking at South Korea, Germany and France as possible sources.
He said Washington should have no problem with the Philippines buying submarines from Russia.
“We are not using it against you. Neither can we use it against China or anybody else because we are underarmed,” the President said.
The President also criticized the United States for selling refurbished helicopters, some of which, he claimed, had crashed already.
He noted that the Philippines’ other allies like South Korea, Japan, China and Russia donated equipment.
“To this day, China or Russia never asked us even for a paper clip. They (China) never mentioned the West Philippine Sea, and I’m the one who’s mad,” he quipped.