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President Duterte is willing to allow joint military exercises between the Philippines and Russia to enhance maritime cooperation but will not sanction any permanent stay of foreign troops in the country.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella issued the statement on the eve of the President’s visit to the two Russian warships currently docked at a Manila harbor for a weeklong goodwill tour.
“The President has said before that he is open to joint military exercises with Russia,” Abella said in a Palace press conference.
“The goodwill visit by the Russian Navy will contribute to the strengthening of friendship with the Philippine Navy.
It also is an indication that our maritime cooperation can further be enhanced to enable diplomacy and camaraderie,” Abella added.
However, Abella said the President remains opposed to any permanent stationing of foreign soldiers in the country. “As far as we understand it, he was referencing permanent stay but joint exercises maybe something that could be considered,” he said.
He said a memorandum of agreement must still be signed between the Philippines and Russia to establish the framework on the future military exercises.
“In conversation with the Secretary of the National Defense, he said that all of these things will be dependent on the signing of an MoU which was initiated in 2014 and this will provide the framework regarding the terms of engagement from military to military, visiting students, cultural exchanges, and joint military exercises,” Abella said.
The President is scheduled to emerge from his holiday hiatus to visit the Russian anti-submarine destroyer anchored in Manila today. This visit is the President’s first official activity for the New Year.
After a string of television interviews late December, Duterte had not scheduled any public engagement since the start of the New Year.
Explaining the President’s absence, Abella said Duterte has been staying in his hometown Davao City for some “personal time.”
“He’s being spending quiet time, personal time,” he said. I think he’s in Davao. He’ll be flying, he’ll be coming soon. I think he’s visiting the Russian ship,” he said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)