Duterte in Russia

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    PRESIDENT Duterte’s ongoing state visit to Russia has a lot of significance for the country, as it confirms that the President’s much touted “independent foreign policy” that veers away from decades-old dependence on the United States is being realized.

    In fact, Duterte will deliver a lecture at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Russia’s top school for diplomats, on Oct. 5. He will also receive an honorary degree in foreign diplomacy from the same institution.

    The meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi is important, not just because the two leaders will witness the signing of accords on health, culture, and basic research which are ordinary activities in any state visit.

    Duterte will most likely conclude agreements on the purchase of modern arms for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a member of the delegation, announced that Russia has offered the Philippines transport and attack helicopters, fighter aircraft, ships, drones and tanks, as well as Kilo-class submarines.

    These items will definitely improve by leaps and bounds the fighting capability of the Armed Forces, fleshing out the term “AFP modernization” with real meaning.

    Before this visit, Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev assured the government that Russia is committed to help the country strengthen its defense capabilities. He said, “We are open to many options, we are ready to supply sophisticated arms and weapons to help the country in staff training, joint drills and exercises. We are ready to coordinate our efforts, and of course we want to transfer our best technologies in all of the developing countries.”

    It will be recalled that President Duterte’s first visit to Russia in 2017 was cut short after local Islamists belonging to the Maute group attacked Marawi City. The Chief Executive had to return to Manila post-haste to attend to the most serious security problem that occurred under his watch.

    It is common knowledge that Russia and China turned out to be Duterte’s most reliable allies in the fight against Islamist terrorists in Marawi, with the Americans unhappy that the President was looking elsewhere to buy arms for the AFP.

    We are happy to note that the engagement between the Philippines and Russia in the field of defense has improved over the past few months following the signing of the Philippine-Russia Agreement on Defense Cooperation and the Agreement on Military-Technical Cooperation in 2017.

    It took a prestigious Russian university to recognize Duterte’s achievements in international diplomacy, giving true meaning to his independent foreign policy for the nation. It would do well for Filipinos to note that their President is ramping up points in this department.