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Duterte’s goal in Russia visit

President Duterte will make a landmark visit to Russia next week to forge a “stronger partnership” in the fields of defense and security, trade and investment, and peaceful use of nuclear energy, among others.

The President is expected to hold separate meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, as well as the Filipino community in Moscow during his official visit from May 22 to 26.

Also included in Duterte’s itinerary is a side trip to St. Petersburg where he will visit a military shipyard and attend a business forum.

“It will be the first visit of the President to Russia and we believe it will mark a new chapter in Philippine-Russia relations,” Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad of the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a Palace press briefing yesterday.

“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,” she said.

“It is for this reason that the theme of the visit is “Building a Stronger Partnership, a New Chapter in Philippine-Russia Relations,” she said.

Despite the establishment of Philippine-Russia ties almost 41 years ago, Natividad said the bilateral engagement has remained at “a nascent stage” in almost all areas of cooperation. “The relations can be best described as cordial albeit modest in scope and depth,” she said.

Natividad said the President’s schedule in Russia would be “substantive” that includes meetings with Medvedev on May 24 and Putin on May 25.

Cooperation agreements on defense, security, legal assistance, trade and investment, peaceful use of nuclear energy, and culture are expected to be signed during Duterte’s visit.

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

A military technical cooperation deal will also pave the way for the country to explore a possible procurement of military equipment from Russia, Natividad said.

“There is really nothing that would stop Russia from participating in the modernization program, defense modernization program of the Philippines,” she said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling and Ben R. Rosario)

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