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Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter - Duterte's Ukraine Trap

Manuel L. Quezon III
Manuel L. Quezon III
Vladimir Putin (R) greets President of Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) in Sochi, Russia, October 3, 2019 (Newsweek(
Vladimir Putin (R) greets President of Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) in Sochi, Russia, October 3, 2019 (Newsweek(
This week's The Long View
Ukrainian surprise | Inquirer Opinion
Why I believe DFA went rogue on Ukraine
Taking a stand on Ukraine | Inquirer Opinion
I suggested in my column that the President, to put it bluntly one way, was out of the loop when the Philippines made its statement in the UN General Assembly; put another way, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs went rogue and on his own authority or initiative or both, made Philippine foreign policy without leave from the one authorized to make that policy –the President. It was, of course, a statement that put the Philippines foursquare in the corner of Ukraine where most of the world is, anyway. But still.
My understanding is that there was a term for what was, up to that point, the Philippine position, which was to studiously ignore the Ukrainian situation and any lobbying to shift the Philippine position to one supportive of that embattled country. Instead, the silent treatment equally conducive to Russia and China, was being called “strategic silence.”
The Inquirer editorial above reinforces my belief that the Philippines jettisoned a previous position when it made a statement in the UN General Assembly and that this was without presidential knowledge or approval.
The military procurement angle
Heavy Lift Helicopter Acquisition Project of the Philippine Air Force - Philippine Defense Resource
The link above will take you to an extremely detailed story updated over a period of years right down to the present. Essentially it says that while medium to heavy lift choppers do feature in Philippine military modernization plans, it’s only in later phases and besides, overall there’s been a preference for American hardware, specifically the Chinook. But President Duterte, foiled in his overall desire to institute a total withdrawal from American arms purchases, something he’d pushed practically from the start, although it intruded into the already-developing ecosystem (see this chart: South Korea, Indonesia, USA being top 3 suppliers, 2016-2020) finally agreed to the purchase of some American choppers (Blackhawks) on the specific condition that Russian choppers be bought for the heavy lift category –and that the purchase should be moved up and made a priority. Both the article above and this summary of Russia’s arms sales efforts in the region, however, point to CAATSA, the imposition of sanctions against Russia (and other countries, and those transacting with them) as the main stumbling block for Philippine government arms purchases.
What is of interest here as I mentioned in my column, is that aside from American government legislation, the Philippines were it to pursue arms purchases from Russia, would face the condemnation of many notions and their publics. This is ticklish because Russian arms deals are of great interest to the President but his term is winding down; hence his announced intention to meet with the military, police, and businessmen is interesting to those who might want to look further into the implications of those deals.
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Manuel L. Quezon III
Manuel L. Quezon III @mlq3

I'm a columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer; an Editor at large at; I write on history, politics and culture; and I write speeches and have worked in political communications; and I used to broadcast (which is where The Explainer comes from); I also set up and maintain the Philippine Diary Project; this is a newsletter to keep readers abreast of what I've written, am writing, and think about what's going on as well as a way to expand topics and conversations on all sorts of issues. Ideally, this will come thrice weekly:
1. Every Monday: Electoral-Merry-Go Round, on the Road to the 2022 Presidential Elections
2. Every Wednesday or Thurday: My column, "The Long View" along with additional material/thoughts on the topic.
3. Passion Project Weekends: reviews and recommendations books, movies, and other things; updates on The Philippine Diary Project and other things I find interesting. If my podcast comes out, this is when I'd promote it.

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