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Philippine Embassy defends proposed $1.5-B US arms sale to Duterte admin

The Philippine Embassy in Washington on Friday defended the United States’ decision to sell $1.5 billion worth of military equipment and weapons to the Duterte administration as some groups expressed fears that it will contribute to human rights violations in the country.

In a statement, the embassy accused certain groups criticizing the military deal of “advancing their own political agenda, even to the detriment of the long-standing alliance between the Philippines and the United States.”

“It is unfortunate that certain groups seek to take advantage of this issue,” it said, explaining that Manila’s proposed move to buy defense materiel from Washington is part of an ongoing program to modernize the Philippine military – one of Asia’s weakest.

On April 30, the US State Department announced the approval of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Philippine government, which includes six AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and related equipment for an estimated cost of $1.5 billion.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South-East Asia,” the State Department said.

Some groups in the US, led by #NoArmsSalesToDuterte, called on American lawmakers to suspend security assistance to the Philippines due to alleged human rights violations committed by Duterte during his violent anti-drug war that killed thousands.

The Philippine Embassy said the defense modernization program of the Philippine Government has been continuously pursued not only by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, but also by previous administrations.

It noted that the program is “critical to national security and necessary to achieving a credible defense posture.”

Over the years, Manila has turned to its long-standing ally, the US, Japan and other western allies in an ongoing effort to modernize its ill-equipped military and strengthen its capability to guard and defend its territory in the South China Sea, which is claimed nearly in its entirety by China.

Modernizing the country’s military, the embassy said, would make the Philippines “a more robust, and effective security partner for countries in the Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia regions, especially at a time of traditional and emerging security challenges.”

“Our bilateral relationship with the United States is strong in many areas and anchored on mutual respect,” it added. “The defense modernization program of the Philippine Government will continue to be an important aspect of the bilateral relations between our two countries.” --KBK, GMA News