By Ben R. Rosario
Moscow, Russia – President Duterte and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are looking forward to intensify diplomatic ties as they hold bilateral talks at Russia’s White House today (May 24).
The Duterte-Medvedev dialogue will be held at the Study Room of the House of the Government of the Russian Federation, known here as the White House, a day before the Filipino leader meets his “favorite hero,” President Vladimir Putin, on Thursday (May 25).
During the same visit, the Philippines and Russia will forge agreements for the sale of precision weapons that would help the former eliminate terrorism with the least collateral damage on civilians, Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said.
Sorreta said the fact that Russia offers the best bargains for its most effective weapons with no attached conditionalities is one significant factor that has caught President Duterte’s attention to deal with Putin.
Duterte has admitted much interest in getting precision weapons and smart military hardware from Putin as he vowed to address terrorist threat in the Philippines that appeared headed for the worse due to the entry of dreaded international terror group ISIS.
Details of the military items that will be purchased by the Philippines have not yet been released.
Medvedev, 52, was Russia’s president when Putin was its prime minister from 2008 to 2012. He was appointed prime minister upon Putin’s election as president.
Diplomatic ties between Philippines and Russia started 41 years ago but have only made modest gains. Duterte’s visit is expected to stimulate the low key relationship as the Philippines tries to explore better alliances outside its usual ally, the US.
Duterte is also shopping for good deals in power generation while offering the Philippines’ agricultural produce and expanding existing exports such as bananas and dried mangoes.
Sorreta said Russia “can provide a whole range of nuclear energy,” including the modular type that can drastically reduce power cost in the Philippines on a lease arrangement.
“Russia is a major power in terms of energy. Deep cooperation with Russia on energy not just on fossil fuels but on higher technology, renewable sources, or more modern energy can bring energy prices down quite a lot,” explained the Filipino envoy to visiting Filipino mediamen covering the Duterte visit.
Duterte has veered away from the US and had instead pushed for a foreign policy shift aimed at expanding the diplomatic horizons of the Philippines by talking with America’s rivals, Russia and China.
Sorreta said Russia’s apparent observance of a policy of non-interference is one vital consideration for an independent diplomatic scheme that the Duterte administration is pursuing.
“They think sovereign states are capable of making decisions for themselves and will benefit or suffer by those decisions but never should an external state interfere in the sovereign affairs of the Philippines or of Russia,” he noted.
“Right now, they want to start heavily on the economic and then eventually on security, but not on the strategic security, just defense cooperation,” he explained.
Duterte and his delegation of top Philippine officials arrived here Monday for a four-day official visit upon the invitation by both Medvedev and Putin, whom the Filipino leader met on different international events last year.
The Philippine delegation received a red carpet welcome upon arrival at the Vnukovo International Airport in Russia’s capital city at 4 a.m. yesterday. On hand to welcome them was a group of top Russian diplomats, led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Duterte’s official visit in Russia followed his attendance last week at the Belt and Road Initiative Forum hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Putin was among the heads of state to attend the forum.
The Philippines is also expected to sign trade and investments agreement with Russia.
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