Philippine gun deal with US firm back on

MANILA • The Philippines police said yesterday that it will push ahead with the purchase of 26,000 assault rifles from a US supplier, following an about-face by President Rodrigo Duterte, who previously said the deal would be scrapped.

Mr Duterte had a week ago expressed anger at "fools" and "monkeys" in Washington seeking to block the deal and said he would cancel it himself. But Mr Duterte's police chief said he has revoked that decision, apparently after Republican Donald Trump's surprise win in the US presidential election.

"(The President) told me to continue the deal," Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald Dela Rosa told a news conference. "We have the blessing of the President to continue the transaction."

Mr Dela Rosa did not say why Mr Duterte had changed his mind, but said there would be a new president in Washington and that Mr Duterte and Mr Trump "are friends".

Aides to Mr Ben Cardin, who sits on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last month said the State Department had been informed that Mr Cardin would oppose the deal during the prenotification process, effectively putting the brakes on it.

Mr Cardin was reluctant for the United States to provide weapons to the Philippine police given concerns about alleged human rights violations in Mr Duterte's war on drugs, which killed 2,300 people in its first four months.

PAYING, NOT BEGGING

We're paying for it, we're not begging for it.

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE CHIEF RONALD DELA ROSA, on halting the deal again should the US attempt to block it

The tough-talking Mr Duterte has been incensed by US concerns over the crackdown which he says is needed to save his country from ruin. He has regularly berated the Obama administration but has expressed a desire to work with Mr Trump.

Mr Dela Rosa said it was possible the President would scrap the guns deal if there were an intervention in Washington.

"If they will block it, I'm sure the President will again tell me to stop it. We're paying for it, we're not begging for it," he said.

When Mr Duterte first cancelled the order last week, he said that the government should not buy expensive weapons when it could get them at a better rate from other suppliers.

He also noted that buying more weapons would just result in more violence.

"I am buying those guns but to kill whom? We do not have enemies. We are the ones killing each other," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Philippine gun deal with US firm back on'. Print Edition | Subscribe