Russian companies have identified infrastructure, energy and security as investment areas they can explore in the Philippines, while Manila may expand its exports of tropical fruits and other agricultural produce to Russia, the head of a business mission said here Monday.
“In the immediate perspective, infrastructure, energy and security were identified as priorities,” Victor Sumsky, director at the Asean Center in Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), told The Manila Times on the sidelines of the Russia Business Mission to the Philippines.
Sumsky said the business mission is in response to the outcome of the meeting between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Valdimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit held in Lima, Peru in November last year.
The Russian business mission will conduct three business presentations in Manila, Subic and Clark, respectively, from March 13 to 17.
The Russian delegation includes six companies representing Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Kurgan, and specializing in engineering/energy, the creation of modern infrastructure (in particular, bridges), the design of new ports and modernization of the existing ones, the production of advanced scanning equipment for customs inspection and security checks and, the production and launching of micro-satellites for earth remote sensing.
Sumsky said the business mission is an attempt to build relations at a practical level by identifying Philippine companies, individuals and government institutions to interact with Russia, and eventually strengthen that partnership.
“We are trying to achieve that result by doing these public presentations to people who are involved in research and consultancy so that Filipino authorities and private sectors will know the opportunities that we are offering,” he said.
Sumsky said the Russian business mission also arranged separate meetings with other government officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Energy and the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as officials of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) which covers Subic and Clark.
As a result of these meetings, the host agencies aim to prepare a joint paper with practical recommendations to the governments of the Philippines and Russia on the eve of President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Russia this May 25.
“We want to learn more about the opportunities in the Philippines so that the next time we come here, we can offer a broader choice of opportunities,” Sumsky said.
Sumsky noted that the group of Russian businessmen had a meeting with Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia on Monday morning to discuss the process by which the Philippines may assist Russian firms in identifying areas of business where their expertise will be needed most.
“[During the meeting] I think we got the better understanding of the process through which interested Russian companies have to go if they want to build roads and major infrastructure projects in the Philippines,” he said.
“Of course here, one of the major problems is project financing. I think that would be among the opportunities we can explore when we come back to the Philippines. We can have a better understanding of how we should pursue [that],” he added.
During the meeting, Pernia mentioned some of the Philippine government’s planned infrastructure projects, such as the construction of 13 new bridges across the Pasig River; construction of bridges that will link the Manila Bay shore with Corregidor Island; and the bridges that will connect the islands of Panay, Guimaras, Negros and Cebu.
“Joining this conversation were two companies who are involved in this mission: Kurhganstalmost, which is in the business of construction of steel bridges; and Lenmorniiproyekt, which is an institution involved in the design of new ports and modernization of existing ones,” Sumsky said.
PH prospects in Russia
“I think there is an opportunity for increasing our trade and agriculture, especially for tropical fruits,” Sumsky said, recalling Russia’s commitment to buy agricultural produce from the Philippines, such as fruits, vegetables, or grains.
“I think that the market of Russian Far Eastern in the Siberia area is quite considerable for that,” he added.
Sumsky said another opportunity for Filipino businessmen is to tell potential Russian investors about increasing the production of varieties of Philippine tropical fruits and bringing them into Russia.
“If you are able to do that, I think you achieve a double result – increase in investment potential and increase in trade,” he said.
Sumsky’s statement is in line with the goals of the government to make Russia one of the major destinations for Philippine agricultural produce and manufactured crafts, following President Duterte’s rebalanced foreign policy directions.
To date, only about $46-million worth of Philippine goods are shipped to Russia every year.