Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Marat Pavlov (PNA photo)

MANILA – The production of Russian helicopters is ongoing using the PHP1.9 billion downpayment deposited by the Philippines in January 2022, the Russian Embassy in Manila said.

In an interview at his residence in Makati City on Wednesday, Russian Ambassador Marat Pavlov said the Philippines has yet to formally communicate its decision to terminate the PHP12.7 billion contract signed during the Duterte administration to purchase 16 Mi-17 helicopters, with an additional unit to be included at no extra cost.

In July 2022, former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana revealed he terminated the contract based on the decision of former President Rodrigo Duterte over the possible impact of several sanctions imposed on Russia due to the Ukraine war.

"I'd like to reaffirm that the Russian side is continuing to fulfill all the obligations regarding this contract and we consider it valid until now," Pavlov told reporters. "The downpayment was made for the start of the assembly operation, so we continue to assemble. Because we received the amount of the money therefore (we're) fulfilling all the contractual obligation."

He also bared that one unit was in fact ready to be delivered in June 2022.

At a September 2022 Senate hearing, Defense Officer-in-Charge and Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. admitted that the project "has not been officially cancelled" but a contract termination review committee has already been formed to process it.

He said the government is also working to negotiate a refund of the PHP1.9 billion that was given as advance payment "through diplomatic channels" considering that the project was implemented through government-to-government procurement.

Pavlov, for his part, said the Russian Embassy would wait for an official communication or a diplomatic note but hopes that the new administration could still reconsider based on its "independent foreign policy".

"Officially speaking, the Embassy didn't receive any official communication through the very known channel, for example the diplomatic note. We didn't receive any note," he said. "We are waiting."

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson, in a recent roundtable, confirmed that the State Department has asked the US Congress to approve a USD100 million (approximately PHP5.9 billion) in foreign military financing for the Philippines, which she said could help Manila offset the down payment it made for the Russian chopper purchase.

Last August 2022, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the country is looking at buying Chinook helicopters from the US.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense (DND) said formal proceedings are underway to terminate a deal for the Philippines to purchase 16 military heavy-lift helicopters from Russia.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the department has started an exchange of letters and calls with Sovtechnoexport, and they are waiting for the appropriate response.

"Nagsimula na at naghihintay na lang ng mga reply ng isa’t isa kaya 'yun ang status ngayon (The process has begun and both sides are awaiting each other's response. That is the status for now)," Andolong said in an interview.

He, however, declined to give further details, saying this stage of the transaction is sensitive.

Andolong also declined to comment on the effect of the United States' USD100-million pledged assistance to the Philippines on the chopper deal with Russia. (PNA)