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President leaves for 4-day visit to Russia

Russia will no longer be at the margins of Philippine diplomacy as President Duterte has vowed to unlock the “full potential” of bilateral relations in his official visit to Moscow from May 23-26.

Before leaving Davao City for his foreign journey yesterday, the President said he intends to work with Russia to open the “doors of cooperation” even wider, admitting there is much room for growth.

In seeking to boost the country’s relations with Russia, Duterte explained that he wants to correct a “strategic oversight” wherein the country often relied on traditional partners.

“My administration will give Philippines-Russia relations the importance commensurate to its full potential. We will push for pragmatic engagement in the politico-security sphere, increased economic cooperation, and enhanced cultural and people-to-people exchanges,” the President said.

“It is my hope that this official visit will lay the firm foundation for a robust, comprehensive, and mutually-beneficial Philippines-Russia partnership,” he said.

The President, accompanied by his partner Honeylet and daughter Veronica, several Cabinet members, lawmakers, and businessmen, will visit Moscow and St. Petersburg this week. His itinerary includes meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russian businessmen, and the Filipino community.

In his remarks, the President said relations between the Philippines and Russia were established four decades ago but many opportunities for growth still need to be explored.

“Russia must cease to be at the margins of Philippine diplomacy. Overdependence on traditional partners has limited our room to maneuver in a very dynamic international arena,” he said. “This is a strategic oversight that has led to many missed opportunities for our country. I am determined to correct this,” he added.

Duterte said his visit to Russia highlights the country’s independent foreign policy as well as resolve to broaden friendship and cooperation with other nations.

“Russia is a country that we must work with,” Duterte said. “There are opportunities for cooperation that cannot be ignored. With its geographic footprint in the Asia-Pacific region and its strategic interests in the region, a positive engagement is required to find areas of synergies in interests,” he added.

In Moscow, the President said he would meet with Putin and Medvedev to discuss ways of charting the future direction of Philippine-Russia partnership across many areas.

He said they would also exchange views on regional and international issues to determine how we can best advance shared interests.

“Founded on shared aspirations, sovereign equality, and pragmatism, there is room for growth. There is room for positive change,” he said.

Duterte also plans to engage with business leaders in Russia and seek increased trade and investment between the two countries.

“With the Philippines’ emphasis on sustaining our economic growth, we seek responsible economic partners who will become our new allies in development,” he said. “I will let them know that the Philippines means serious business,” he added.

Duterte said he would also meet with the Filipino community in Moscow and thank them for their contribution to nation building.

He said his visit to Russia gives the rare opportunity for the Russian people to know more about the Philippines and Filipinos.

“I will engage the Russian youth who should know that Filipinos considers Russia as friends and that we seek nothing more than a friendship of equals based on mutual respect.”

Duterte said his high-level delegation Russia befits the level of importance his government places on writing “a new chapter of Philippines-Russia relationship.”

Meanwhile, Duterte is set to receive an honorary doctorate degree from a Russian university during his visit to Moscow.

The conferment of the honorary doctorate to Duterte at the MGIMO University (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) is set tomorrow. He is also expected to deliver a policy speech at MGIMO University and hold a dialogue with students.

MGIMO University is a prestigious institution for diplomatic training and international relations studies.

Duterte and his entourage were expected to receive a red carpet welcome from senior Russian Federation officials upon his arrival at 10:30 p.m., May 22, or 3:30 a.m. today, Manila time at the Vnukovo-2 Airport in Moscow launching his four-day official visit to Russia. (Genalyn D. Kabiling, Ben R. Rosario, and PNA)