MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte is scheduled to visit Russia in March or April next year, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said yesterday.
Yasay said Duterte’s visit is not to establish a military alliance with Moscow as earlier reports said. He stressed the Philippines’ military alliance is only with the United States.
Yasay said Duterte’s visit to Russia will focus on defense cooperation in terms of exchange of information, the fight against terrorism, war against drugs and enforcement capability.
“These are areas that we can discuss and promote between the Philippines and Russia,” he said.
“The President has declared we will only have one military alliance and that is with the United States. We have our Mutual Defense Treaty which the President said he will respect, together with all of the support agreements,” Yasay said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev said the state visit could be held in the spring or summer next year, given that President Duterte “does not like cold weather.”
He said Duterte’s visit is expected to further open trade relations between the two countries in many fields, including defense, agriculture, labor exports, telecommunications and infrastructure.
Khovaev also commended the independent foreign policy being pursued by Duterte.
He added Russia will be a reliable partner and friend of the Philippines.
Khovaev, however, stressed Russia will not pursue any closed military alliance with any Asian country, including the Philippines, despite offering arms and weapons to interested parties.
He said Russia will not tolerate interference from any third party country in the pursuance of stronger relationship with the Philippines.
“No third country should interfere in the relationship of Russia and the Philippines just as we have no intention to influence the relationship of the Philippines and its traditional partners. But all of these are interconnected,” he said.
Khovaev said Russia has a long-term strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region, which he described as an “indispensable precondition” in the development of their country.
He said the aim is to establish a “new architecture of security in the region.”
Khovaev said they are ready to supply military equipment and engage in the transfer of relevant technologies to any state without “political conditionality.”
He added they will not use potential military supplies to put political pressure on the sovereign affairs of their partners, just as Russia does not tolerate any interference on theirs.
Khovaev gave assurance that Russia will not conduct joint patrols with any country on disputed areas in the South China Sea given its “very clear position” that it will not take sides in territorial disputes.
He also refused to comment on the issues of human rights violations of Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs. He only wished success in the campaign.
Khovaev also underscored the potential of Philippine-Russia relations, which is expected to flourish with the establishment of the Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, signed by the two countries last year.
The commission already has listed several Russian companies that are willing to invest in the Philippine market, he added.
Laying the predicate
Yasay will leave on Saturday for Moscow.
“I’ll be going there to plan out the details to make sure that the meeting will happen in the near future. We’re shooting for March or April next year,” he said.
Yasay said he will be with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to lay the basis for a successful and fruitful meeting between Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Lorenzana confirmed he would be going to Russia next week.
He said his travel to Moscow will center on defense and cooperation talks with his Russian counterpart. – With Jaime Laude