President Rodrigo Duterte will go to Russia in what a foreign affairs official described as a “landmark” visit aimed at sending a “strong message of the Philippines’ commitment to seek new partners”.
“We consider this visit as a landmark that will send a strong message of the Philippines’ commitment to seek new partnerships and strengthen relations with non-traditional partners such as Russia,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad said in Palace briefing on Friday, May 19.
During Duterte’s four-day official visit from May 23 to 26, the president is expected to meet with his counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and witness the signing of several agreements on defense, security, legal assistance, trade and investment, the peaceful use of nuclear energy and culture.
“The agreement on military technical cooperation will pave the way for the Philippines to explore a possibility of military procurement from Russia,” Natividad said.
Duterte had expressed his interest to procure defense assets from Russia.
Natividad said Putin and Duterte first met at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) in Lima, Peru last November.
Duterte will also hold talks with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev whom he met at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Vientiane, Laos in September 2016.
The President is also expected to meet with the Filipino community in Russia, Natividad said. She said there were around 5,000 Filipinos there.
The foreign affairs official said Duterte was also scheduled to deliver a speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
“In that event, we expect the President to articulate his administration’s commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy that is anchored foremost on national interest considerations,” she said.
Aside from Moscow, the President will also travel to St. Petersburg to visit a military shipyard and attend a business forum.
Several businessmen, Natividad said, would join Duterte’s delegation.
“At the moment, Russian investments in the Philippines are very modest. And with this visit of the President, we hope we can start to correct that,” she said.
Natividad said Duterte’s visit was on Putin’s invitation.
The last Philippine leader to be invited by the Russian government was Fidel V. Ramos.
Former presidents Benigno Aquino III and Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had visited Russia during their terms but only to attend an international event.