PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte wants to be friends with Vladimir Putin and plans to meet the Russian leader at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit later this week in Lima, Peru.
Duterte made the announcement Tuesday night following a meeting with Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev in Malacañang, and two months after announcing that the government was looking at buying weapons from Moscow and Beijing to lessen the country’s reliance on US military assistance and pursue an “independent foreign policy.”
“Matuloy ho. Ako ang nanghingi niyan [It’s pushing through, I was the one who asked for it],” Duterte told reporters during a dinner in Malacañang.
“Earlier tonight, I had a long talk with the ambassador of Russia. I reiterated my desire to meet Putin, [have a]bilateral [meeting with him],” he added.
The President’s encounter with Putin would be his third with a major power, after meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo last month.
Duterte said he would not raise issues with or seek assistance from Putin, but would like to talk about economic relations.
“Wala naman akong hingiin [I won’t ask for anything]. I want to be friends with him. I just want the two countries to be the best of friends,” the President said, adding that trade and the economy could be a topic of conversation.
“This is an economic world. If there are things we can sell them or export to them, or if there are also things they own, or if they can sell to us and it is obvious it can be put to good use, then we will buy those things that are needed,” he said.
Duterte met with Russian and Chinese officials in Laos during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, and said the two countries agreed to extend soft loans payable in 2025 for the acquisition of military equipment.
A planned meeting with US President Barack Obama however was cancelled by the White House following Duterte’s expletive-laden rants against Washington’s criticism of his bloody anti-drug campaign.
Duterte has since ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to restrict joint exercises and patrols with the US military, while exploring military supply deals with Russia and China.
Putin is expected to attend the summit of Pacific rim nations in Peru along with other world leaders like Obama, Abe and Xi. The APEC Leaders’ Summit will take place on November 19 to 20.
The White House has not ruled out an Obama-Duterte meeting during the APEC summit.