MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he wants the Philippine military to get intelligence gathering equipment only from Israel.
Duterte made this comment as he met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on the third day of his official trip to the Jewish state.
“My order to my military [is] that in terms of military equipment, particularly intelligence gathering, we only have one country to buy from, that is my order, specifically Israel,” Duterte said.
The Filipino leader did not explain why he prefers Israeli military equipment.
The President again showed his disdain for how the United States sells or donates military equipment to the Philippines. The US is a long-standing Philippine treaty ally and also a major partner for Israel.
“America is a good friend but if it will sell you something, they would also be listening,” Duterte said without expounding.
He had earlier accused the US Central Intelligence Agency of spying on him and plotting to kill him.
Earlier reports indicated that the President was set to visit an Israeli military camp to view equipment. This, however, was not reflected on the official schedule and list of activities given to the media.
Israel is a major military arms dealer, with nearly 60 percent of its defense exports going to the Asia-Pacific, according to Israeli defense ministry data.
The Philippines emerged as a significant new customer in 2017 for Israel, with sales of radar and anti-tank equipment worth $21 million.
In his message to Rivlin, Duterte also thanked Israel for its aid to the Philippines at the height of the Marawi siege, where Philippine troops battled Islamic State-inspired militants in the predominantly Muslim city in Mindanao for five months.
Rivlin, for his part, said Israel would continue to cooperate with countries which “protect their own people and carry the burden of security.”
“We do that with the idea that we are holding values of democracy and human rights,” Rivlin added.
Duterte’s visit to Israel is the first for a Filipino president. – with Agence France-Presse