President Rody Duterte delivered a sucker punch to the United States in stating a plan to purchase Russian submarines as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines upgrade, prompting another wave of assurances from the Americans about its being a reliable ally.
US Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver was suddenly in the country and for which the US Embassy had to summon the media for a briefing.
His presence was made to look as being the Pentagon official seeking an update on the bilateral defense and military treaties between both countries yet his only apparent effort was to assure Rody the United States will be “a good ally” to the Philippines related to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) conflict while warning the Department of National Defense about the submarine deal with Russia.
Schriver appeared to have been flown to the country with the main purpose of meeting with media and not government officials.
“We’ll be a good ally … there should be no misunderstanding or lack of clarity on the spirit and the nature of our commitment,” Schriver said.
When asked in what way the Philippines would rely on the US in case of an elevated conflict, his response was “we’ll help the Philippines respond accordingly.”
Prodding from media did not result in Schriver expounding on the US promise.
Instead, he warned the administration on its plan to purchase submarines from Russia.
“I think they should think very carefully about that,” Schriver said.
He added that Russian military purchases will not help advance the relationship of the United States and the Philippines.
“When you buy weapons systems, particularly major platforms, you’re not just buying capability, you’re investing in a relationship,” Schriver said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Russia was offering soft loans for the purchase of two submarines which the United States has never done for military sales.
Rody immediately responded with the expected rebuke on Schriver.
“What’s the problem about acquiring submarines? We are not using [them] against you, neither can we use them against China or anybody else because we are underarmed,” Rody said, again going ballistic in a speech during the convention of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago in Davao City.
“You meet me at a forum. You state your case why you are against my country in acquiring submarines. You give me the reason why and make it public. You want us to remain backwards?” Duterte said.
“Is that how you want to treat an ally and you want us to stay with you all the time,” Rody added.
The Americans would have made a case with the Philippines in being a good ally by providing the country with modern military equipment.
The latest major acquisitions of the country from the United States were three Hamilton-class cutters that were made flagships of the Philippine Navy.
The vessels were about 40 years old and were decommissioned from the US Coast Guard (USCG) and sold to the Philippines.
Despite its being retrieved from the USCG scrapyard, the lead frigate now called BRP Gregorio del Pilar was sold to the former administration of President Noynoy Aquino at P450 million in 2011. The similar BRP Ramon Alcaraz was also purchased for the same amount.
The frigates were also stripped nearly bare and needed another P250 million each for repair work and engine replacement.
Rody’s beef is that the United States over the years had offered nothing but strong words to back up its claim of being a strong ally to the Philippines.
When it matters most, such as when China started its buildup in the WPS during the term of Noynoy, US help was nowhere to be found.