DAVAO CITY, Philippines —President Rodrigo Duterte will embark on a “landmark” official visit to Russia on May 22 to May 26, a government official announced Friday.
Maria Cleofe Natividad Assistant Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs said Duterte’s first visit to Russia will mark a new chapter in Philippine-Russia relations.
The President, she said, will meet with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin on May 24 and 25.
She said Duterte will be discussing issues and areas of cooperation and economic partnership with the two leaders including political, military and defense.
Natividad said among the agreements that Putin and Duterte will witness signing are those related to “defense cooperation, military and technical cooperation; the treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters; treaty on extradition; an MOU on cooperation in the field of security between respective national security councils.
Natividad added that the agreement on military technical cooperation will pave the way for the Philippines to explore a possibility of military procurement from Russia.
“And there is really nothing that would stop Russia from participating in the modernization program, defense modernization program of the Philippines,” she said.
Prior to the scheduled meeting, Putin and Duterte met on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru on November 19. Duterte and Medvedev, meanwhile, met on September last year during the ASEAN Summit.
Natividad said the government sees the visit as “an indication of a strong common desire to enhance and strengthen bilateral relations.”
Natividad said despite the almost 41 years of bilateral relations between both countries engagement remains at a “nascent stage”. She said Duterte’s visit will signal the Philippine’s desire to seek new partnership with non-traditional partners.
Russia and Philippines’ bilateral trade in 2016 totaled to $226 million. Natividad said the Philippines exported “only $49 millions worth of goods to Russia.”
“Russian investments in the Philippines at best are still miniscule and Russian tourist arrivals in the Philippines are at around 38,000 only, still way below that of many ASEAN countries,” she said.
Natividad said Duterte will be joined by top-level cabinet members to “explore and strengthen all aspects of cooperation.”
Filipino officials will participate in the Philippine – Russia Business Forum in Moscow which Natividad described as “an opportune time to share with the Russian companies the benefits of doing business in the Philippines and the very positive investment climate, especially in such areas such as infrastructure, energy, transportation, tourism and others.”
Aside from the business forum, Duterte will also visit a military shipyard and will meet with the Filipino community.
She said Duterte will deliver a policy speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations or the MGIMO.
“We expect the President to articulate his administration’s commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy that is anchored on national interest considerations,” Natividad said.(davaotoday.com