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Duterte off to Russia today

The Philippines is seeking to boost defense and security cooperation with Russia during President Duterte’s visit to Moscow this week.

The President is scheduled to depart Davao City this afternoon for an official visit to Moscow upon the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This will be the President’s first visit to Russia that aims to “mark a new chapter in Philippine-Russia relations,” according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Prior to his flight, Duterte has shown enthusiasm about his Russian visit to shop for defense assets, particularly precision-guided weapons, to help combat the threat of Islamic extremists.

“I’m going to Russia on Tuesday. Same purpose. If they can spare us with the precision guided (weapons),” Duterte told a gathering of Coast Guard personnel in Davao City last Friday.

“We have so many smart bombs but not as the accurate as one. It’s guided by the laser or by the satellites or the dumb bombs which will just hit anything,” he said.

Duterte said the government has been avoiding the use of such dumb bombs “because it could cause so many collateral damage.”

In Moscow, Duterte is set to hold separate meetings with Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russian businessmen, and the Filipino community.

Among the agreements to be signed are a defense cooperation deal and a military technical cooperation pact. The security deals involve information sharing and training as well as pave the way for the country’s possible acquisition of defense assets from Russia.

Apart from the defense deals, the Philippines and Russia are expected to forge agreements related to legal assistance, trade and investment, peaceful use of nuclear energy, and culture.

The President also aims to enhance the country’s trade and investment relations with Russia during his visit.

“Both the Philippines and Russia recognize that there is a need also to explore the many untapped opportunities for mutually beneficial economic relations,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad said.

“At the moment, Russian investments in the Philippines are very modest. And with this visit of the President, we hope we can start to correct that,” she added. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)