Duterte to visit Russia next week, discuss economic, defense cooperation with Putin

Malacañang file photo of President Rodrigo Duterte.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will go on an official visit to Russia from May 23 to 26 upon the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang on Friday, May 19, Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad said Duterte’s upcoming visit to Russia would be expected to mark a new chapter in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Russia.

“We also see this visit as an indication of our strong common desire to enhance and strengthen bilateral relations,” Natividad said, noting that the relationship between the two countries was still at a “nascent stage” despite celebrating 40 years of bilateral ties last year.

“The relations can be best described as cordial, albeit, modest in scope and depth. Thus, 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,” Natividad said.

During his visit, President Duterte is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Putin on May 24 and 25, respectively.

“There, he will be discussing important issues and areas of cooperation and economic partnership with Prime Minister Medvedev and with President Putin on the cooperation in political, military and defense,” she said.

According to Natividad, several bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during the President’s visit to Russia.

“These agreements are those related to defense, security, legal assistance, trade and investment, peaceful use of nuclear energy and culture,” she said.

These include 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.

Duterte met with Putin in November last year on the sidelines of the APEC Summit meeting in Lima, Peru.

The President also met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in September last year during the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos.

Meanwhile, Natividad said Duterte would be expected to deliver a policy speech at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).

“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,” Natividad said.

“MGIMO, being an elite institution for diplomatic training and international relations will likewise anticipate that the President will share his ideas on how to achieve peace and security, especially in the Asia Pacific region,” she added.

Natividad also said the chief executive would bring with him an “impressive business delegation” to the Philippine–Russia Business Forum.

“The forum would be 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,” Natividad said.

Duterte is also scheduled to meet the Filipino community in Russia on the second day of his visit.

“We have around 5,000 Filipinos in Russia and we heard that they are very strong supporters of the President,” Natividad said.

“We believe that the President’s visit will be the start of a strong and enduring partnership between the Philippines and Russia that is multi-dimensional, mutually beneficial and will be in keeping with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and equality,” she added.