President Rodrigo Duterte is slated to conduct an official visit to Russia from May 22 to 26, 2017 upon the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang on Friday, May 19, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad said President Duterte’s upcoming visit to Russia is expected to mark a new chapter in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Russia.
“We also see this visit as an indication of our strong common desire to enhance and strengthen bilateral relations,” Natividad said, noting that the bilateral ties between the two countries is still at a “nascent stage” despite celebrating 40 years of bilateral ties last year.
“The relations can be best described as cordial, albeit, modest in scope and depth. Thus, we consider this visit as a landmark that will send a strong message of the Philippines’ commitment to seek new partnerships and strengthen relations with non-traditional partners such as Russia,” Natividad said.
In his visit, President Duterte is scheduled to have a bilateral meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which will be held on the 24th and the 25th of May, the first and second day of the official visit.
“There, he will be discussing important issues and areas of cooperation and economic partnership with Prime Minister Medvedev and with President Putin on the cooperation in political, military and defense,” she said.
According to Natividad, several bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during the President’s visit to Russia.
“These agreements are those related to defense, security, legal assistance, trade and investment, peaceful use of nuclear energy and culture,” she said.
These include defense cooperation, military and technical cooperation, the treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters; treaty on extradition; an MOU on cooperation in the field of security between respective national security councils.
It will be recalled that President Duterte met with Putin in November last year at the sidelines of the APEC Summit meeting in Lima, Peru.
The President also met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in September last year during the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos.
Meanwhile, Natividad said Duterte is expected to deliver a policy speech at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations or the MGIMO.
“In that event, we expect the President to articulate his administration’s commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy that is anchored foremost on national interest considerations,” Natividad said.
“MGIMO, being an elite institution for diplomatic training and international relations, will likewise anticipate that the President will share his ideas on how to achieve peace and security, especially in the Asia Pacific region,” she added.
Natividad said President Duterte will be bringing with him an “impressive business delegation” to the Philippine-Russia Business Forum, as she noted that bilateral trade between the two countries could still improve.
“The forum would be an opportune time to share with the Russian companies the benefits of doing business in the Philippines and the very positive investment climate, especially in such areas such as infrastructure, energy, transportation, tourism and others,” Natividad said.
President Duterte is also scheduled to meet the Filipino community in Russia on the second day of his visit.
“We have around 5,000 Filipinos in Russia and we heard that they are very strong supporters of the President,” Natividad said.
“We believe that the President’s visit will be the start of a strong and enduring partnership between the Philippines and Russia that is multi-dimensional, mutually beneficial and will be in keeping with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and equality,” she said.