In a move likely to soothe frayed alliance ties, the Philippines has offered the use of its facilities to the United States should the conflict in Ukraine expand to Asia. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez made the comments last week when asked whether President Rodrigo Duterte would attend the coming Asean-US Summit in Washington. The pitch may reassure the US and its allies who are concerned Duterte’s personal warm ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin , and sympathy towards Russian security grievances, may hamper Manila from taking a stand. Envoy says Philippines to back US if Ukraine war spills into Asia The Philippines desires to stay neutral in the war. It has called on parties to reaffirm commitment to the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes, which provides a framework to resolve crises through diplomacy, dialogue and rule of law. Although the country did back a United Nations resolution introduced by the US and Albania condemning Russia ’s move, it did not join other American Indo-Pacific allies in imposing sanctions against Moscow. Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have passed varying sets of sanctions against Russia. Neither did fellow US Southeast Asian ally Thailand, who likewise voted in favour of the resolution. Emerging US security partner Vietnam abstained from voting likely due to long-standing ties dating back to the Cold War when the former Soviet Union provided diplomatic support, economic and military aid to Hanoi. The decision not to take part in the sanctions suggests the Philippines wants to keep ties with Russia open, including in the area of defence. Manila recently announced the purchase of BrahMos cruise missiles jointly developed by Indian and Russian defence firms. The country is also poised to acquire Russian Mil Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopters. Washington’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) complicated efforts by other countries to secure Russian arms. Expanded sanctions since the invasion of Ukraine last month only made matters worse for prospective buyers. It compounds difficulties for Nato ally Turkey to buy additional Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles, and for major non-Nato ally and Quad partner India to get a waiver to likewise buy the S-400. Indonesia last December dropped plans to get Russian Sukhoi Su-35 multirole combat aircraft, also likely due to the threat of CAATSA sanctions. Ukraine envoy to Indonesia urges G20 to put Russian invasion on agenda The arrival of two Turkish T-129 ATAK helicopters early this month may have given Manila some relief. In 2020, the US placed sanctions on Turkey after its S-400 purchase , and this loomed large on Philippine procurement as the Turkish platforms were powered by American-made engines, raising concerns about whether Turkey can get clearance to obtain them. If Ankara and New Delhi’s missile orders are frustrated, the likelihood of Manila adding Russian choppers in its arsenal looks dim. This will be a blow to Duterte’s bid to diversify the country’s security partners. From this vantage point, the Philippines’ offer to the US may be a ploy to temper the latter’s opposition and preserve the Russian deal. Duterte welcoming US access to Philippine military facilities is a marked departure from his usual tirades against his country’s treaty ally. It suggests a softening that also bears on domestic politics, especially as the country heads to polls in less than two months’ time. The proposal can be seen as an attempt to calibrate ties with the US, which continues to enjoy a high degree of public trust among Filipinos. Worries that Russia’s precedent may embolden more assertive and powerful countries mired in flashpoints elsewhere underscore the importance of keeping alliances to deter potential expansionist designs of bigger neighbours. The Philippines, along with other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, has unresolved territorial and maritime disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea . China has no ‘preferred candidate, will work with next Philippine leader’ Duterte himself may have no need for such late-stage conciliatory moves, but it may help the cause of his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio. The latter leads the vice-presidential race, is expected to gun for the top post in 2028, and is viewed as likely to carry on her father’s legacy, including in foreign policy, possibly minus the bombast. The offer to use Philippine bases also comes ahead of the in-person Asean-US Summit that Washington was set to host next week, although it is reportedly delayed due to scheduling challenges. While the elder Duterte had already visited Moscow twice in 2017 and 2019, and spoke before Russia’s premier Valdai Forum in Sochi in 2019, he has yet to make a trip to the US. His presence at the summit may clear the way for his successor to renew relations with the country’s former coloniser and time-honoured ally, while also growing ties with other rising powers. As national polls draw near and global geopolitics remain in flux, the Philippines’ position on the war in Ukraine will continue to be challenged within and without.