PH-Russia ties strengthened by new defense cooperation
TIES between the Philippines and Russia are expected to be strengthened after both countries agreed to sign a defense cooperation partnership agreement when President Rodrigo Duterte visits Moscow next month, a senior Cabinet official said Friday.
Following Duterte’s visit to the Russian guided missile cruiser Varyag currently anchored at the Port of Manila, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said in a chance interview: “Defense cooperation will be finalized when the President visits Moscow by the end of May.”
He added: “The defense cooperation will come in the form of training, [and] exchange of information.”
As the President boarded the ship and stood for a photo with Russians near the ship’s deck, Duterte turned biblical as he expressed elation over their presence, saying he had nothing to be afraid of.
“The Russians are with me [so] I shall not be afraid,” the President said.
Esperon said while Duterte, who is expected to visit Moscow by May 25, already expressed the country would not enter into any other military alliances other than with the United States, other forms of cooperation could still be pursued by the country in line with Duterte’s independent foreign policy.
“[While] we don’t go into alliances, which is a tighter agreement, we can go into partnerships in a mutually beneficial way,” Esperon said.
Joint exercises can also be explored as a possible avenue for cooperation in the future, Esperon added.
“That’s a long way to go but we can come to that later on,” he said.
During his visit, he got a tour of the 34-year-old Varyag from Russian officials, including the upper deck where the short-range anti-missile rocket system is, the mid-ship where the long-range anti-aircraft missile rocket system is and the ship’s bough where its main weapon or the long distance anti-ship missile and anti-aircraft carrier are.
“It was in keeping with the invitation extended to the President by visiting the ship. It’s showing goodwill. No more, no less,” Esperon said.
Duterte also went to the ship museum as well as the Admiral’s room for the guest book signing.
During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Lima last November, Duterte already met Russian President Vladimir Putin where he accepted his invitation to visit Moscow.
Duterte had previously visited the Russian large anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs, which made its port call last January for a goodwill visit.