Enrile Tells Duterte Not to Count on the U.S. for Arms Support

Enrile recalls how the U.S. considered the Philippines 'low priority' over 50 years ago.

In a taped briefing that aired on Monday night, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile warned President Rodrigo Duterte not to rely on the U.S. for security issues, particularly for arms support. 

Enrile, who was the national security adviser of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, recalled his dealings with the Americans in the 1970s, describing them as unreliable. He advised the president for the Philippines to buy its own weapons and equipment rather than expect dole outs from the U.S. 

“Honestly, in my experience as secretary of national defense in the time of President Marcos, we could not rely on America when it comes to issues like this,” Enrile said in Filipino. 

According to Enrile, the U.S. did not provide weapons to the Philippines when the latter requested 2,500 M-16 rifles to be used for anti-insurgency operations. It was despite the Philippines providing troops for the Vietnam War. At the time, the Philippines was using museum-worthy M1 Garands and carbines used in World War II.

Enrile noted they were forced to buy weapons from Taiwan and Singapore because the U.S. considered the Philippines “low priority.”

But the Philippines has significantly improved its arms deals with the U.S. ever since Enrile has had dealings with the Americans as national security adviser. 

In 2016, the U.S. provided two Hamilton-class warships to the country to bolster the Philippine Navy’s assets in the West Philippine Sea. Back in November 2020, the U.S. also delivered 100 precision-guided missiles to the Philippines, as well as 12 thermal imaging systems, two dozen 500-pound bombs, and a reconnaissance drone, according to an Associated Press report


In February 2021, the Philippines revealed its intention to purchase 15 Black Hawk helicopters from PZL Mielec, a Polish subsidiary of the U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin. Currently, the Philippines operates a fleet of Huey helicopters, a crash-prone vintage from the 1950s. 

The Philippines is expanding its options when it comes to suppliers for its AFP Modernization Program. Israel is among the top partners of the country in bolstering its defenses. Israel is set to provide missile-guided crafts and ground-based air missile defense systems to the Philippines. The country is also in talks with India for procurement of its Brahmos missiles, the fastest cruise missile in the world. 

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