MANILA – One month before President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Russia, he had a glimpse of something Russian right in Manila: the guided missile cruiser Varyag at the Port of Manila Friday afternoon.
Duterte did not give media interviews after his tour, but in his discussions with the Varyag’s officials, as well as Russian Ambassador Igor Kovaev, Foreign Affairs Acting Secretary Enrique Manalo and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the President said that because he is allied with the Russians, he has nothing to fear. “Russians are with me so I should not be afraid.”
It is the second Russian warship boarded by Duterte, the first being the Admiral Tributs that docked in Manila in January.
As he toured the Varyag, the President was shown the missiles, helicopters and other features of the warship. After the tour of the Varyag, Duterte posed with Russian officials who flashed the Duterte sign.
According to Esperon, the arrival in Manila of the Varyag is part of the Russians’ effort to show goodwill, partly to respond to the President’s invitation.
Esperon, however, clarified that no military exercises have been scheduled between Russia and the Philippines after the Varyag‘s visit.
From Manila, the Russian warship will be escorted by the Philippine Navy up to Corregidor, before it sails to Thailand and Vietnam.
The visit could lead to a defense cooperation partnership between the Philippines and Russia, but such will be finalized only when Duterte finally gets to visit Moscow on May 25.
Such defense cooperation could include military training and information sharing.
Esperon pointed out there is no change between this and the President’s earlier remarks that he does not wish to forge any new military alliance with other countries, adding that what is contemplated now is a simple partnership and not a military alliance.
“Their coming here is a show of goodwill. The visit of the President is also a show of goodwill. No more, no less,” Esperon added. “We don’t really intend to go into alliances, which is a tighter agreement, but we can go into a partnership in mutually beneficial activities.”