Philippine President Duterte scoffs at US offer to buy ‘utterly useless’ F-16 jets
The offer follows advice from a visiting Pentagon official, Randall Schriver, against buying Russian weapon systems and platforms
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected an offer by the US defence chief and other top American officials to buy F-16 fighter jets, saying such an acquisition would be “utterly useless” because his country needs lighter combat aircraft to fight insurgents.
Duterte scoffed at the offer on Thursday, saying it had been floated in a letter by Defence Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The offer came after he was slammed by the US for his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs, he said.
During a televised speech in a military ceremony, Duterte read what he said was the letter to him by the US officials.
He said the Philippines did not need the F-16s “and yet they dangled (them) before us after they humiliated us”.
Duterte’s disclosure followed advice last week from a visiting Pentagon official, Randall Schriver, against buying Russian weapon systems and platforms.
Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was expected to meet his Russian counterpart this week about the possibility of buying Russian arms, local media reported.
The US government’s letter said the “special relationship” between the two countries “will only grow stronger by increasing our dialogue and cooperation especially on security”.
The letter noted Manila’s recent decision to procure Bell combat utility helicopters and Cessna utility aircraft. Bell and Cessna are both part of Textron Inc.
“We hope to partner in all the significant defence procurement,” the US officials were quoted as saying in the letter.
Duterte said what he needed were attack helicopters and small planes for counter-insurgency operations.
He expressed willingness to meet the three US officials, but said he would not go to the United States for the dialogue.
Duterte has vowed to buy new military equipment to fight twin Maoist and Muslim rebellions, and no longer accept second-hand weapons from the United States.
The Philippines under Duterte has forged closer ties with both China and Russia involving trade and defence cooperation.
With additional reporting by Reuters