MANILA, Philippines — It looks like Philippine-Russia ties have gotten deeper since President Rodrigo Duterte announced last year that he wanted to open an alliance with Moscow and chart a supposedly independent foreign policy.
Two days after Senate and Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan president Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel announced that the Philippines’ ruling party had signed a memorandum of understanding with United Russia, the ruling party of the Russian Federation, three Russian warships, including two anti-submarine vessels, docked in Manila on Friday.
The Russian vessels were to unload what navy officials said were weaponry and military vehicles donated to the Philippines as part of a new defense relationship.
It was the third port visit this year by Russian warships as part of Duterte’s moves to engage closely with Moscow, an arch-rival of Manila’s former colonial master and closest defense ally, the United States.
The load included 5,000 assault rifles, a million rounds of ammunition and 20 army trucks, Russian and Filipino navy officials said.
“We would do our best to make this port call a significant contribution indicating friendly ties and relations between two nations in the interest of security and stability in this region,” said Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of Russia’s Pacific Fleet flotilla.
The visit was timed to coincide with the arrival next week of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is attending a regional defense meeting, and U.S. counterpart Jim Mattis, a Philippine navy spokesman said.
Russia and the Philippines are expected to sign a security deal on military logistics next week.
‘Rekindling ties with Russia part of Duterte admin’s independent foreign policy’
In a statement issued last Wednesday, Pimentel, said Duterte “has rekindled ties with Russia and China as part of his administration’s independent foreign policy and the Philippines’ ruling party “is open to building ties with political parties in other countries that share its commitment to change for the welfare of the people.”
The PDP-Laban president went to St. Petersburg to attend the 137th International Parliamentary Union Assembly and talk to leaders of United Russia.
“”We want to share our experiences with parties from other countries, and we want to learn from their experiemces as well. The change we push is not change for the sake of change, but rather, it is aimed at eradicating age-old problems and must therefore bs sustainable,” said Pimentel.
Last May, Duterte went on an official visit to Russia but had to cut short his trip amid clashes in Marawi City between government forces and pro-ISIS extremist groups, which prompted him to declare martial law in Mindanao.
Duterte was able to meet his “favorite hero” Vladimir Putin during his short visit to Moscow. He said his one-and -a-half-hour talk with the Russian president about economic and security assistance was fruitful.
“We discussed everything. I said, I come here not really to ask for anything, but I ask that we be friends and allow me to do trade and commerce via your country, in the eastern side of Europe,” said Duterte.
Following his aborted trip, Philippine and Russian officials signed 10 agreements, including intelligence sharing and defense cooperation, wherein the two countries would have official visits and military port calls and allow participation of observers in military training exercises.
Also, last May, the government-run Philippine News Agency reported that the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the Russian Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications would forge a partnership on state information dissemination, including media training of PCOO staffers in Russia.