DA NANG, Vietnam — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday expressed his deepest gratitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who helped “turn the tide” for the Philippines in its protracted battle against Islamic State-inspired groups who laid siege in Marawi City last summer.
Duterte, who met with Putin for the third time at the sidelines of the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit here, said that Russian weapons were the ones that greatly helped the military in its efforts to liberate Marawi following the four-month siege.
“In a way, you helped us turn the tide and to shorten the war there because of your assistance,” the President said.
“So again, I thank you very much, the Russian people, and you, Mr. President. We will remember you for all time,” he added.
Duterte, who in less than 24 hours of staying at Moscow last May decided to declare the state of martial law in the whole island of Mindanao due to ISIS attacks, said that meeting Putin once more was with “double the enthusiasm and gratitude” for the Philippines.
“President Putin, sir, I’m very happy to see you again. This time, with double the enthusiasm and gratitude of my country, the Philippines,” Duterte said in his meeting with Putin.
With Russia’s help, Duterte said he “was able to prove to everybody” that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police “could take care of our country.”
“I would like to convey to you the gratitude of the Filipino people for your timely assistance, especially the trucks and the arms that you sent because we have to replenish--the supplies were getting low,” he said.
“And, according to my soldiers, the arms that you sent are very accurate and they were able to take care of the snipers that abounded and I lost more… Almost all of my troops because of the sniping, snipers, which were covered in buildings,” he added.
Sharing his dream “to build a strong Armed Forces and a strong police” before he steps down from the presidency, Duterte said the Philippines was eyeing to buy arms from Russia this time after American legislators “stymied” the country’s supposed procurement of firearms.
“Because at that time we were short of arms for the police and we wanted to buy it (sic) from America but because of the almost equal power of the US Congress and the President, it is always stymied by the legislators,” he said.
“So the 23,000 that I ordered was (sic) scrapped and your timely assistance to my country helped us replenish the old arms and the spent bores that were fired repeatedly and we have a new stock.”
For his part, Putin said terrorism was a common challenge for both Russia and the Philippines, noting that Russia was prepared to further develop defense relations between Russia and the Philippines.
“I would like to say that terrorism is one of our common problems and common challenges and following our agreement, we are ready to keep developing our relations, including in the military area and the tactical area,” the Russian leader said.
Noting that economic ties “are at the lower level,” Putin said he wanted to see an improvement in the economic relations between the two countries.
“I have no doubt, special attention should be paid to our economic ties,” Putin said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, meanwhile, said the President expressed he did not want to participate in conflicts between big powers, adding he appreciated that Russia had shown good faith.
John Paolo Bencito
Philippine ports would be ready to accept Russian vessels, Duterte’s spokesman added.
Roque also said the President had expressed he would appoint a special envoy for military side and to improve trade relations with Russia.
While he will no longer proceed with his plan for another short visit to Moscow, Duterte said he had to thank those who helped the country in its fight against terrorism.
“You know, they should know that we nurture gratitude...same with China, and America, and Israel...”
Duterte told reporterts in a media interview Thursday night.
“Those were just borrowed items. It’s back in their possession now. But they allowed us. But the most important thing also is that the United States had allowed us to use the modern equipment of warfare,” he added.
Duterte is urging Russia to open up the latter’s markets for the export of Philippine products.
“For Russia, just a small window where we can start exporting our products there. But this has to be done by our DTI and some other guys, our bright guys,” Duterte told reporters here Thursday night.
Philippine officials have yet to find out what are really exportable and saleable, Duterte said.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said should both countries firm up the ongoing trade talks, some $2.5 billion worth of agricultural products from the Philippines are expected to enter Moscow’s markets.
Talks on expanding trade and security relations between the two countries were first discussed during their first bilateral talks at the sidelines of the 2016 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit held in Peru.
Accompanying Duterte were Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, and DFA Acting Assistant Secretary Amelita Aquino.
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