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A high point in PH-Russia ties

President Duterte’s visit to Moscow, Russia, was unexpectedly cut short because he had to rush back to the Philippines after his proclamation of martial law in Mindanao last Tuesday. President Vladimir Putin cut short his own visit to a city a thousand miles away from Moscow so they could meet, even only briefly, at the Kremlin Grand Palace.

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano signed several agreements in President Duterte’s behalf, along with Secretaries Wanda Teo of Tourism, Emmanuel Pinol of Agriculture, Ramon Lopez of Trade and Industry, and Fortunato de la Pena of Science and Technology, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

The agreements provided for partnerships in tourism, agriculture, culture and the arts, transportation, trade and investments, industrial development, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Significantly, two of the agreements were on defense cooperation, including training, and on exchange of intelligence information.

During their brief meeting before his departure, President Duterte asked President Putin for the grant of a soft loan with which to acquire precision-guided weapons and other advanced military hardware. Putin asked Duterte to send him a list of the needed equipment and said Russia would study it.

The Duterte-Putin meeting in Moscow and the agreements signed by their ministers mark a high point in the relations between the two countries. Historically, official relations date as far back as 1817 when imperial Russia opened a consulate general in Manila, then a colony of Spain. But in more modern times, during the Cold War, the Philippines and Russia found themselves on opposite sides of international issues, with the Philippines firmly in the US fold.

This was until President Duterte won in the 2016 election and he declared he would forge a more independent foreign policy, one less dependent on the US, one that would seek closer ties with Russia and China.

Today, the Philippines is moving forward very strongly with big plans in many areas, notably in infrastructure, energy, and transportation. China and Japan are already strongly participating in these plans of the Duterte administration. Russia could also well be a major partner in all these programs.