(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday said it is now formalizing the cancelation of the contract for the acquisition of 16 Russian-made Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopters.

"The DND is formalizing the termination of the contract with SOVTECHNOEXPORT LLC of the Russian Federation for the procurement of 16 units of Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF)," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

He also added that the DND Contract Termination and Review Committee (CTRC), which will undertake the appropriate processes and exercise due diligence in formalizing the termination of the project's contract, has already been reconstituted.

"We are also preparing to initiate a diplomatic dialogue with the Russian side regarding matters arising from the project’s cancellation," Andolong said.

He added that "changes in priorities necessitated by global political developments resulted in the cancellation of the project by the previous administration."

Andolong also said the CTRC will also take on the issues concerning the DND's down payment amounting to PHP1.9 billion.

Earlier, then DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the PHP12.7 billion contract was canceled as the Philippines could face sanctions from the United States if the project pushes through.

Lorenzana added that the termination of the contract was approved by former president Rodrigo R. Duterte before his term ended on June 30.

The PAF earlier said it is looking at the possibility of acquiring heavy-lift helicopters as part of efforts to beef up its helicopter fleet.

A heavy-lift helicopter is a type of rotary aircraft capable of lifting large numbers of personnel or cargo.

The Mil Mi-17 is a Soviet-designed Russian military helicopter family in production at two factories in Kazan and Ulan-Ude.

It is known as the Mi-8M series in Russian service. The helicopter is mostly used as a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter, as well as an armed gunship version.

It has a maximum speed of 280 kilometers per hour (170 mph, 150 knots) and a range of 800 kilometers.

The Mi-17 has a crew of two pilots and one engineer and is capable of transporting 24 soldiers or 12 stretchers internally. (PNA)