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Philippines Will Likely Complete Arms Purchase From Russia, In Defiance Of US Sanctions

REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

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Elias Atienza Fact Check Reporter

The Philippines will likely complete an arms purchase from a blacklisted Russian firm in defiance of sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States.

The Philippines agreed in October 2017 to purchase 750 RPG-7B rocket launchers from Russia’s state-owned Rosoboronexport. However, this could lead to possible sanctions on the Philippines due to the U.S. policy of imposing sanctions against countries that traded with “Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors,” according to Reuters.

These sanctions are meant to punish Russia for its annexation of Crimea, interference in the 2016 election and aggression toward its neighbors like Ukraine, according to Reuters. (RELATED: White House Agrees With Bill To Slap Sanctions On Russia, Limit Trump’s Authority To Remove Them)

Russia has donated military gear to the Philippines, such as assault rifles and trucks, but this would be the first time the Philippines purchased weapons from Moscow, Reuters reported.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has pivoted toward Russia and China since he was elected, straining the Philippines’ historical alliance with the U.S. He has also insulted American leaders such as former President Barack Obama.

Duterte canceled an arms deal with the United States in 2017 because of U.S. lawmakers seeking to block the sale of 26,000 assault rifles due to concerns over Duterte’s drug war that has killed thousands. He also canceled a helicopter deal with Canada worth $233 million because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government ordered a review of the deal, according to The Globe and Mail.

A Department of State official told Reuters “significant transactions with any of the 39 listed entities will result in sanctions” and that foreign governments and private companies have been “put on notice” about the potential action. The official, however, declined to say if the U.S. would impose any specific sanctions on the Philippines if the Asian country went forward with the purchase.

The Department of the Treasury also declined to tell Reuters about possible sanctions, telling them they did not “telegraph sanctions or comment on prospective actions.”

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said the Philippines is free to enter any deal with any nation, no matter what the U.S. desires, according to the Philippine Star.

“I don’t know how US law would be applicable to a transaction that will be done outside of the United States,” he told reporters Thursday in a press briefing.

Jose Antonio Custodio, a Filipino military analyst and historian, told Reuters the arms deal would strain the Philippines’ military relations with the U.S., Australia and Japan.

“If the Duterte administration keeps on elevating the military-to-military relationship with Russia, it may lead to push back from these allies given international sanctions on that country for bad behavior,” Custodio said.

Roque said the deal would go under review, but stressed that the Philippines had “immunity.”

“We have immunity, and we are free to enter into contracts as we please, and we are not bound by any domestic law especially if the transaction will not occur on US soil,” he said.

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