President Duterte reaffirms Philippines commitment to build stronger ties with Russia

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the members of his delegation hold a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Polyana 1389 Hotel in Sochi on October 3, 2019. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Sochi, Russia—President Rodrigo Roa Duterte met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bilateral meeting last October 3, reaffirming the administration’s commitment to strengthen relations with the Russian Federation.

“I am here today to reaffirm our strong commitment to build a robust and comprehensive partnership with the Russian Federation,” President Duterte said in his opening remarks during the bilateral meeting with the Russian leader at Polyana 1389 Hotel here.

President Duterte said that in the past two years, both Russia and the Philippines have seen a dramatic increase in bilateral activities across many areas of cooperation at various levels of government.

He noted that both governments have made “historic firsts” in the key strategic areas such as economic, defense, security, and military technical cooperation.

In area of defense and security, the Chief Executive particularly cited the port call made by BRP Tarlac in Vladivostok in 2018, an unprecedented goodwill visit done by a Philippine Navy vessel.

“This was highly a political issue and importance given that a few years back, this would have been unthinkable,” he said.

With enhanced ties, the two nations have established high-level consultative mechanism involving Foreign Ministries, National Security Councils, and Economic Agencies, he said.

“Since 2017, our National Security Councils meet regularly to take stock of our engagement in defense, security and law enforcement matters and to exchange views of other issues affecting our countries,” he added.

“It is imperative to sustain these consultative dialogues and enhance our mechanism to further strengthen the foundation of our growing relationships.”

The opening of defense attachés in both countries is an indication of long-term commitment to enhance defense relations between the Philippines and Russia, he stressed.

The Philippine leader also expressed his gratitude to President Putin for inviting him to speak at the Valdai Forum, the first for a Philippine president to join the annual event.

The Valdai Discussion Club was established in 2004 and has since become a platform for hundreds of international experts, diplomats, politicians, public figures, and religious leaders to exchange opinions and ideas on key issues contributing to global agenda setting.

For his part, the Russian leader thanked President Duterte for accepting his invitation to visit his country for the second time after the Filipino leader’s May 2017 trip was cut short by the conflict in Marawi City.

Putin said the presence of a Philippine president at the Valdai Discussion Club is of “utmost importance” to Russia as they discuss various topics involving Asia.

With regard to the two nations’ bilateral relationships, Putin described the Philippines as “a very important partner of Russia in Asia.” He said the bilateral cooperation between the two countries is “constructive and mutually beneficial”.

President Duterte also received praise from Putin for successfully quelling the Islamist rebellion in Mindanao, commending him for his efforts to lower the level of terrorist threat in the Philippines in the last two years.

Putin renewed his commitment for greater security cooperaton with the Philippines, saying, “We are prepared to develop our partnership when it comes to countering terrorism and share our experience and all the developments.”

He also recognized President Duterte’s efforts in expanding the multifaceted cooperation between Russia and the Philippines.

With President Duterte’s personal attention, the Philippines and Russia have revitalized their political dialogue, Putin said.

Since Russia and the Philippines forged closer ties, Putin said the two countries have achieved significant gains in their trade and economic cooperation. Trade between Russia and the Philippines grew two-fold last year while exports expanded four times.

Russia has major reserves in place and its companies are ready to increase the supplies of energy carriers, aircraft, transport, special equipment to the Philippines, Putin said.

Also, Russia would want to increase industrial cooperation with the Philippines, as well as to improve cooperation in space exploration and the use of digital technologies, according to Putin.

At the same time, he underscored the importance of establishing direct ties between entrepreneurs, citing the regular meetings of the Business Council, which was created in 2009.

President Duterte took part in the Business Council meeting when he returned to Moscow on Friday.

Present during the bilateral meeting between the two leaders were Philippine officials including Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta.

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