Despite a word of caution aired by a United States defense official, the Philippines will push through with the exploratory talks of possibly acquiring a submarine from Russia.
The vessel acquisition is among the issues that Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana will discuss with his scheduled meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu, upon whose invitation was the reason he is now in Moscow.
Lorenzana, who left for Russia on August 16, said he would bring the submarine-acquisition proposal with Shoygu, while also exploring other areas of possible military cooperation with Moscow.
“To look at some defense equipment they are offering: like submarines, helicopters,” Lorenzana said when asked about the purpose of his visit to Russia.
Last year Lorenzana and Shoygu signed an agreement for military-technical cooperation between the two countries following the port visit of a Russian warship in Manila.
The port visit was accompanied by the donation of Russian-made military trucks and firearms to the country.
The Department of National Defense (DND) has been looking at Moscow as a possible source of the first submarine for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, aside from South Korea and other countries as secondary sources.
Lorenzana said the military is evaluating the suitability of the Russian Kilo-class submarine for the Philippine Navy.
Defense Spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Russia has offered to provide two platforms for the military under a soft loan, but such offer has to be discussed further.
The plan to acquire a submarine, with Moscow as the source, elicited reactions from US Assistant Secretary of Defense and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver, who thought it would not be good for the alliance.
“I think they should think very carefully about that. If they would have [to] proceed with procurement of major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to the alliance,” Schriver said a few days ago.
But Lorenzana said the country will acquire assets that it knows will work best for the military at the most affordable price.
Andolong said that Lorenzana’s visit to Moscow was also to reciprocate Shoygu’s recent visit to Manila.