DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. said he has instructed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to come up with a priority list for the allocation of the US$100 million (around PHP5.8 billion) worth of military aid to be provided by the United States.

"(Sa) AFP Modernization (Program) ipapasok natin ito, so I have already instructed the AFP, kasama ang Air Force, Navy at Army to come up with priority list na kung saan gagamitin tong USD100 million (We will be using it through the AFP Modernization Program. I have already instructed the AFP, including the Air Force, Navy and Army to come up with a priority list on where the USD100 million will be used)," Faustino said in an interview with reporters in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija on Wednesday, during the closing rites of the Aviator Qualification Course Class 19-2021 and ceremonial turnover of the Bolkow-Blohm Bo-105 helicopter to the Philippine Army by Dornier Technologies Inc.

Asked for updates on the AFP modernization program, Faustino said that they are still reviewing all Horizon 1 and Horizon 2 projects.

"And as of now, we are trying to come up with a list na sabi nga namin recalibrated na itong modernization list na ito kasama yung request ng Air Force, Navy at Philippine Army dito sa list na ginagawa natin (As of now, we are trying to come up with a list which we called the recalibrated modernization list that includes (equipment or platform) request of the Air Force, Navy, and Philippine Army)," he added.

He added that among the factors being considered are the capability of the government and the economic situation.

Faustino said they are making the list "realistic" and really affordable by the government.

US Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson earlier said the military aid to be provided by Washington DC would help offset Manila's canceled Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopter deal with Russia.

She added that the US government was "very grateful to the Philippine government for making the decision" to cancel its chopper deal with Moscow, especially in the wake of "Russia's illegal attack, unprovoked war in Ukraine".

"(We) have notified the Congress of our intent to make available to the Philippines USD100 million in foreign military financing which could be used by the DND to offset that Russian helicopter purchase, that would be one example," she said.

Carlson, meanwhile, clarified that the US would not dictate the modernization efforts within the DND.

Faustino said the US and other countries have offered to supply heavy-lift helicopters, in place of the Mi-17 helicopters that were supposed to be acquired from Russia’s Sovtechnoexport LLC.

However, he declined to name the countries that made the offer.

Earlier, the DND said a body that will discuss further the formal termination of the contract for the 17 Russian-made Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopters is now in the process of reactivation and reconstitution.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said they will provide the Russian Embassy with updates on the discussions.

Andolong also expressed hope that the parties will be able to settle their differences amicably and that it will not affect bilateral relations with Russia.

In July of this year, former Defense Secretary Lorenzana said he terminated the contract based on the decision of Duterte over the possible impact of several sanctions imposed on Russia due to the Ukraine war.

At a Senate hearing in September, Faustino admitted that the project "has not been officially canceled" 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. (PNA)