The Philippines basically kept Russia at arm’s length throughout the 1990s up to the present, preoccupied as we were with maintaining our so-called “special relations” with the United States.
That is, until the Duterte administration took office in 2016, and the Philippines began to seriously implemented what was stipulated in the 1987 Constitution: that we should pursue an independent foreign policy that asserts national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and the right to self-determination.
Duterte’s official visit to Russia in May this year, as well as his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit last Friday (November 10) have led to enhanced bilateral ties, particularly in trade and investments as well as defense cooperation.
We can expect enhanced economic cooperation with Russia as Putin said Russian corporations are interested in investing in the energy and transportation sectors in the Philippines. Putin cited in particular plans to build a light railway system in Baguio and La Trinidad in the Cordillera region, and to establish a repair facility for Russian ships in the Philippines.
Russian companies are also keen on exporting grain and meat to the Philippines, and would like to import fish, fruit, and other sea food.
Duterte conveyed to Putin his readiness to purchase military equipment from Russia.
Russia, on the other hand, is ready to offer a wide range of goods, including high-speed boats and helicopters. and invited our military personnel to come to Russia for training. The two leaders agreed to establish a “military attache” or appoint a “special envoy” on military concerns.
Russia, we recall, also helped in resolving the Marawi siege by providing 5,000 assault rifles and 20 army trucks to the military.
With our enhanced bilateral ties, expect this to prosper even more in the coming years for our mutual benefit.