PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for a soft loan to procure military equipment, saying the Philippines needs arms against terrorists because Washington had canceled an arms deal with Manila.
Duterte made the request during his bilateral meeting with the Russian leader at the Kremlin Tuesday evening (early Wednesday in Manila).
He made the request after declaring martial law in Mindanao following Tuesday’s attack in Marawi City by members of the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute terrorist group, who later clashed with the military and the police.
The bilateral meeting was originally scheduled on Thursday but Duterte decided to fly back to the Philippines early Wednesday morning to deal with the crisis.
During their meeting, Duterte apologized to Putin for cutting short his Russian trip, as he emphasized that Manila was ready to boost relations with Moscow.
“Please consider us as a good friend. I came to visit your place and it’s to establish stronger bilateral relations. I [came]to seek your friendship and to trade, establish trade and commerce with your country,” Duterte told Putin.
“I am sorry if I am in a hurry but I need to buy, if you can grant me a soft loan, we’ll [use]the money and pay it right away because the arms that we ordered from America [were]cancelled,” he added.
Duterte did not give details about the US arms deal, but was likely referring to the US sale of guns to the Philippine National Police that was questioned by US Senator Benjamin Cardin last year. The senator had threatened to stop the weapons sale in protest of Duterte’s “barbaric actions” in connection with the government’s bloody drug war.
The Filipino leader told Putin he needed more firearms to implement martial law on the entire island of Mindanao and to fight terrorists.
“I’m having problems with the [IS]. I come here to seek help,” Duterte said.
Prior to his visit to Moscow, Duterte was considering buying precision-guided bombs from Russia.
Putin told Duterte: “I think we can cooperate in many different technical sphere[s],” adding that the two countries can cooperate in many other areas, including energy, transport and infrastructure.
“Last year marked our 40 years anniversary ever since the establishment of diplomatic ties between our nations. Unfortunately now, the mutual trade exchanges are not too high. But at the start of this year, it started rebounding, increasing by around 25 percent,” he said.
Putin said he was happy to see the Filipino leader in Moscow. The two met in Lima, Peru last November for a summit of Pacific rim nations, and in Beijing early this month for a Chinese-led economic forum.
Putin deplored the “horrible” attack of bandits in Marawi City but said he was optimistic Duterte would be able to end the conflict “with minimal losses.”
“I would like to express our condolences as a matter of fact, loss of lives of your people happened because of a horrible terrorist attack. And my colleagues and myself definitely understand quite well that you do have to return to your motherland,” Putin said.
The President was scheduled to stay in Russia until May 26 for a four-day official visit. Duterte and Putin were supposed to witness the signing of a cooperation deal between their defense ministers on Thursday.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano stayed in Russia to represent Duterte during the signing of bilateral agreements.