The Philippines May Be About to Jump Ship For Russia

Michael Peck

Key point: History shows that nations sometimes switch sides.

Why is the Philippines suddenly interested in buying Russian aircraft?

Not warplanes, but civilian planes for commercial purposes. Yet it suggests that Manila is eyeing a closer relationship with Moscow.

“There is an intention for finding Philippine partners that would probably bring in Russian jets into the country that could be used for tourism or disaster relief,” said Corazon Halili-Dichosa, executive director of the Philippine Board of Investments Industry Development Services, according to Russia’s Sputnik News. “Models that are being offered right now are Sukhoi, Be-200 and MS-21.”

"We think maybe the start for the Russian companies would be general aviation rather than the big commercial things, because the two [Philippine] air companies are right now [using] more Airbus and Boeing, but the general aviation is more open for other brands,” said Halili-Dichosa, who suggested that Russian-made aircraft could be used for charter flights between the numerous islands that comprise the Philippines.

This might seem just a minor commercial aviation deal. But what’s interesting is that the story ran in the defense section of Sputnik News, which hints that the Russian government—and cash-strapped Russian aircraft manufacturers—may be hoping to score some military contracts.

Indeed, Manila seems to be drawing closer to Moscow even as its relations with Washington have worsened. In March 2019, Russian and Philippine officials met to discuss a potential naval pact. In April, two Russian warships docked in Manila. The port visit included “joint drills on navigation and communication as well as special trainings with the quick response forces of the Philippines,” according to the Philippine government. It was the sixth visit of Russian warships, which was reciprocated by the first-ever Philippine Navy ship that sailed to Vladivostok in July for a naval parade marking Russian Navy Day.

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