Russia sweetens PH deal with $2.5-b trade

MORE Philippine bananas will be shipped to Russia in the coming months after Moscow said it would import more than $2.5 billion in agricultural products from Manila, a senior Cabinet official said.

After meeting with his “hero,” Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Rodrigo Duterte also gained Russian investments in energy, railcar building, manufacturing of rails and metals and tourism. 

“Russia, of course, commits to several million dollar imports from the Philippines, they are saying immediately ... on fruit and other products, they can easily bring up imports from the Philippines to the tune of about $2.5 billion. That’s a number they quoted,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Sunday during the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at Lima, Peru. 

SUMMIT SUMMING-UP. (From left) Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, standing in for President Rodrigo Duterte, joins heads of state China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Peru’s Pedro Pablo Kuczynki during the traditional ‘family photo’ on the final day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit at the Lima Convention Center in Lima on Nov. 20. AFP
“[There’s] nowhere to go but up because it’s really a relationship that offers a lot of opportunities because nothing happened before when it comes to trade and investment with Russia,” he added. 

Agricultural projects will be the centerpiece of the Philippines’ economic cooperation with Russia, Lopez said. 

“We were talking of what they could buy from us, especially agricultural products, but nothing was specified. But I understand we supply them with a huge quantity of bananas… and mangoes. With these kinds of discussions, these present more trading opportunities between us,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that the bilateral trade between the two countries amount to more than $422 million every year, with exports amounting to $46 million in beer and agricultural products while imports amount $375 million, mostly in oil.

In the same briefing, Lopez said that Duterte’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping also brought economic benefits, including a 700,000-ton banana export deal.

“I took note of a report that a Chinese delegation recently closed a transaction for $100 million worth of fruit from the Philippines, primarily bananas. That involves 100,000 tons only for one transaction,” he said. 

Other areas of cooperation, Lopez said, include helping the country in terms of energy and infrastructure. 

“[They will help] in machine engineering, hardware, modernizing industrial machineries, railways especially long-range railways, port infrastructure, monorails, light transit transport system, agriculture, and of course, tourism,” he said.

He added: The other side of this is their commitment to work with us on counterterrorism, counter-drugs [operations], law enforcement, [and] education finance.”

The Trade secretary said Putin and Mr. Duterte had established “very good rapport” in their first meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the Apec summit.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Russian leader highlighted the promotion of bilateral cooperation and investments with the Philippines --- particularly in railcar building, manufacturing of rails and the metals industry. 

“Presidents agreed to promote activities of the intergovernmental commission today and give assignments to ministries to call its next meeting as soon as practicable,” Peskov said.

“The Russian President noted Russian companies are ready to intensify work on the Philippine market,” the press secretary said. 

“Duterte underscored in response the possibility for Russian investors to enter into the most diverse areas in Philippines in the nearest future,” he added.

Putin also invited Duterte to visit Russia at a time of his convenience, Peskov said.

Last week, Duterte spoke about his readiness to join a “new world order” under the leadership of China and Russia, adding that he might follow Moscow’s lead and withdraw from the International Criminal Court after Western criticism of his bloody war on drugs.

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said that he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will be visiting Russia ahead of the President’s intended visit next year. 

Yasay said that Duterte’s trip to Russia would pave the way for the forging of better relations between the two nations.

In an interview with reporters, Duterte said that he wanted to visit Russia but not on a “wintery night.” 

“Putin invited me to visit Russia four times, but I will go not on a wintery night as I can’t handle the Russian cold,” he said. 

In an interview with reporters at Lima before leaving for a lay-over going to Auckland, New Zealand,   Duterte said he and the Russian leader became “fast friends.”

“His [Putin] smile was wide. According to news reports, he does not laugh. But he was smiling all along. He said ‘do not forget to visit Russia. I reserved something for you there.’ ‘True?’ ‘Gun.’ He loves guns,” Duterte said, adding that the Russian president is fond of hunting. 

At one point, Duterte said that Putin joked at one point and whispered to him, “Don’t mind America.” 

In his meet with the Russian leader, Duterte said that he repeatedly told Putin that he was already shifting toward China and Russia as he embarks on an independent foreign policy -- saying that America is bullying small nations.

During one of the Apec sessions, Duterte said that Putin told him not to forget to visit Russia. 

“I was talking with the, I think, the premier of Vietnam. They were thanking me for the sailors that we sent home. We talked and when I finally sat down, I found out that President Putin was on my left side, so we shook hands,” Duterte said.  

“And then after that, I shook his hands again and I finally said I’ll go ahead. Then he gestured to me ‘Don’t forget to visit Russia,’” he added.

In a media briefing, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who was present during the meeting, said that Duterte merely voiced his gripes against the United States. 

“Generally, what President Putin said is that we share your sentiments,” he said. 

Topics: Russia , Philippine banana , Moscow , Agricultural products , Philippines , Vladimir Putin , Rodrigo Duterte , Russian investments , Ramon Lopez
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