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Lorenzana in Russia to ‘explore areas of cooperation,’ spokesman says


Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is in Russia to further develop defense cooperation with Moscow, including exploring the possible purchase of submarines, his spokesperson said Monday.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said Lorenzana's visit came upon the invitation of Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu. Lorenzana left for Moscow last week.

The final date of the meeting of the two defense chiefs, however, is still being worked out. 

"Ang talagang pakay niya doon is to explore possible areas to deepen and develop our defense cooperation with Russia... but hindi farfetched that they might be talking about the submarines during his trip," Andolong said.

Andolong said the visit of Lorenzana will improve the defense ties between the Philippines and Russia, which only has an existing agreement on the exchange of personnel signed by former Defense chief Gilbert Teodoro in 2009.

"At the moment kasi, nung 2009 si Secretary Teodoro signed an agreement sa Russia for the exchange of personnel, parang ganun lang. Ngayon the SND (Secretary of National Defense) is exploring the possibility with Minister Shoygu to add on to that current agreement," he said.

Submarines

Asked if the possible purchase of submarines will be discussed, Andolong said: "It is not farfetched that they will talk about the submarines during his trip."

Lorenzana had said in June the government is considering the purchase of submarines from either South Korea or Russia as part of the Armed Forces' modernization program. 

US assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs Randall Schriver, however, warned the Philippines that purchasing arms from Russian would damage Philippine-American relations. 

Schriver's statement drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte on August 17, but Lorenzana said on the same day that the procurement plan was not yet final.

Andolong, nevertheless, said Lorenzana will still proceed to go on “window shopping” despite the remarks of Schriver.

He added the planned purchase is still under the research stage and Russia is not a sure winner for the contract despite its willingness to provide a soft loan package.

"The submarine program has not been chosen or has not began the procurement process yet. Nasa research pa lang tayo e, so hindi pa definite na we will get it from Russia. An offer lang was made to provide two platforms under a soft loan package, hindi pa rin na-discuss but tuloy pa rin yun," Andolong said. — Joseph Tristan Roxas/RSJ, GMA News

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