THE Philippines and Russia are set to clinch agreements on defense and security cooperation when President Rodrigo Duterte visits Moscow in May, the Chief Executive’s top security adviser said on Friday.
The announcement came after Duterte and his top security officials met with Russian officials led by Moscow’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev in Davao City on Thursday.
In a statement, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Duterte and Patrushev discussed “future government-to-government cooperation” in the fields of security and intelligence, defense and military, law enforcement, the fight against drugs, transnational crime and terrorism.
“[Memoranda] of Understanding on these fields are being finalized by concerned agencies and are expected to be signed during the planned President’s visit to Moscow,” he said.
Esperon said the Russian delegation was in Davao for three days and had meetings with him, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno and Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año.
Also present were National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Alex Monteagudo, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Isidro Lapeña and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, he said.
Aside from Patrushev, other Russian security officials in Davao were Russia’s army commander Oleg Salyukov and Alexey Volskiy, head of the Russian Coast Guard Department Frontier Service.
Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev was also present, along with First Deputy Minister of Justice Sergey Gerasimov and Deputy Minister of Interior Igor Zubov.
Lorenzana said on Friday it would be helpful if the Philippines would be given access to the Russian anti-terrorism database.
The Defense chief earlier disclosed that security officials were wrapping up discussions on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that did not progress during the previous Aquino administration.
“The draft is almost finished and it will be one of the documents that will be signed if we can finish the nitty-gritty during the visit of President Duterte in Russia sometime in April or May,” he said.
The MOU involves the exchange of military personnel visits, and participation and observation in Russian exercises, Lorenzana said.
Russia wants to have joint exercises with Filipino troops but the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) needs to sign off on such an arrangement, he said.
“It (DFA) will examine if the MOU is according to some diplomatic language. But I’m sure it will be signed sometime in April or May then after that we can have exchanges of personnel. They can send students to our schools. We can send personnel to their school. But first and foremost, we will first observe their exercises. If we need their expertise then we will join the exercises,” he explained.
‘Friendship based on equality’
Esperon said Duterte hosted a farewell dinner for the Russian delegation at the Marco Polo Hotel on Thursday night.
At dinner, the President “emphasized that the Philippines can only offer its sincerest friendship that is based on equality,” Esperon said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin personally invited Duterte to visit Moscow when they met for the first time at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru in November.
Duterte has repeatedly expressed interest in establishing an alliance with Russia as part of a foreign policy pivot away from the United States, which has criticized his war on drugs.
Last month, Duterte paid a visit to the anti-submarine warship Admiral Tributs, one of two Russian vessels that docked in Manila for a goodwill visit.