Philippines mulls defense asset imports from Pakistan

MANILA, Philippines — After Russia and China, the Philippines is now also looking at importing weapons and armory from Pakistan, further diversifying the country’s sources from the US, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.

“I spoke with the (Pakistani) Minister of Defense and my understanding is that the defense industry in Pakistan is very advanced, and that maybe we should look at purchasing military equipment from them…,” the Finance chief said.

“I spoke right away with (Defense Secretary Delfin) Lorenzana. He says the equipment in the Pakistan Defense Ministry is very good,” he added.

Dominguez mentioned this during his meeting with Pakistani Ambassador Safdar Hayat recently. A statement about the meeting was issued on Wednesday.

Pakistan is located in the Middle East and has been battling terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaeda on its borders for years after the attack in the US in September 2011.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte, upset of criticism from the United States on his war on drugs, threatened to cut ties with the country’s oldest ally that has been providing military support, especially in Mindanao.

He then said he could turn to Russia and China for weapons, before backtracking and said training between US and Philippine forces in the south will continue together with armament acquisitions.

There were also reports that the US Senate canceled a gun deal with the Philippines because of the drug war’s alleged human rights violations, but these were not verified.

Aside from military equipment, Dominguez said Manila is also keen on importing rice from Islamabad once import restrictions expire next year.

The government said it will not renew the quantitative restrictions on rice that had protected local farmers from cheaper rice shipments for the past decade.

“My efforts from the very beginning have been to concentrate on enhancing trade between the two countries,” Hayat was quoted as telling Dominguez.

For his part, the Finance chief said he is looking forward to the first meeting of the Pakistan-Philippines Joint Economic Commission in April next year.

“We’ll certainly participate. That will be a good start,” he said.

Established in 2009, the commission aims to boost trade and investments between the two countries.

According to Department of Finance data, bilateral trade between the two nations “remained at a narrow base,” amounting to $61.3 million in imports and $55.7 million in exports in 2014.

Among others, the country ships corn, vehicles and vehicle parts, cigarette paper, processed fruits and nuts to Pakistan.

In turn, the Philippines receive mostly packaged medicaments, refined petroleum, alcohol, raw tobacco, non-retail pure cotton yarn and textiles from the Middle Eastern nation.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on Sept. 8, 1949, with the Philippines opening a consulate in Karachi.

Source : http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/12/07/1651198/philippines-mulls-defense-asset-imports-pakistan