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Manila, Moscow sign defense, 9 other pacts

MOSCOW, Russia – The Philippines and Russia signed 10 agreements on Wednesday, including arrangements for defense cooperation and use of nuclear technology for power generation, the day after President Duterte decided to cut short his four-day official visit here.

Duterte’s proposal for the grant of soft loan in the acquisition of “precision-guided” weapons and other advanced military hardware that would help his government address terrorism in Mindanao is not included in the deals sealed by the two countries.

However, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano disclosed that President Vladimir Putin has requested Duterte to send the shopping list of military equipment Philippines is interested in acquiring.

“The response of the Russian Federation through President Putin was very, very generous. So they said, well, we have the framework in place through our agreements to cooperate,” Cayetano stated.

“Now, make the proposals and we will study them,” Cayetano said in paraphrasing Putin’s statement during bilateral talks with Duterte who left Russia to attend to the threat of the Islamic State-influenced Maute Group in Mindanao.

“They will do all efforts to accommodate,” said Cayetano as he aired optimism about the proposed deal.

In his first encounter with Putin in Lima, Peru during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit last year, Duterte said the Russian leader was very positive in helping Philippines fight terror and had even offered easy terms for firearms supply.

Cayetano, together with Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Pena, signed the PH-Russia agreements during simple ceremonies at the Four Seasons Hotel here.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. earlier signed an agreement that will launch and strengthen exchange of intelligence information in both security and criminal threats.

Concerned Russian officials have signed the agreements at the time of the signing by their Filipino counterparts.

Philippine Cabinet officials and Russian ministers have been granted authority by Duterte and Putin, respectively, to seal the agreements.

“So both groups are dedicated to strengthen our bilateral relations but both groups are aware that there are challenges – both countries are where there are challenges – and that we have to make this cooperation sustainable,” said Cayetano after Cabinet officials signed the agreements. (Ben R. Rosario)