Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev rallied Filipino businessmen and entrepreneurs to do business with Russia, noting that trade and investment is the weakest link in the relationship of the two countries.
The envoy urged Philippine officials and businessmen to be more aggressive in promoting local products in various events to be held in Russia this year, such as the Third Eastern Forum in Vladivostok City in September. He recalled that in May last year, the Philippines was the only country in Asia that did not send a top official in their trade forums.
“It is in these fora where you establish personal ties, mutual trust and respect,” said Khovaev in a roundtable interview with editors and reporters of The Manila Times.
“Come, be aggressive. We seek to do business with you,” he said.
He issued the statement as Moscow prepares for the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Russia in May this year. Duterte is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Khovaev said the meeting will open a new chapter in Philippine-Russia relations. The two leaders first met in November last year during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Peru.
He said Russian officials are eager to strike deals with the Philippines. Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana went to Moscow in December to discuss the possible agreements that may be formalized during Duterte’s visits.
“Free trade agreements between Eurasian Economic Commission that covers Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz and the Russian Federation and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will be discussed, how to link the huge markets. We will launch it this year,” said the ambassador.
Khovaev said Moscow is preparing the package on cooperation, adding that “this chance should not be missed because it will contribute to regional stability and sustainable development.”
Other topics to be discussed are defense and security, cooperation on anti-terrorism, piracy, trafficking, and federalism.
The envoy said Russia is ready to share information on scientific and technology like the use of nuclear energy in medicine, space exploration, telecommunication and a student exchange program.
He said Duterte will be the second Philippine president to officially visit Russia. The first was the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1976.
He admitted that the Philippines is not very well known to Russians and it is time for both countries to discover one another.
Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta confirmed that there is a market in Russia for Philippine products and services.
“I believe our products and services are world class and competitive. What we need is aggressive promotion, particularly since Russians are unfamiliar with our brands. This trade and investment seminar is very timely and we are very grateful to our resource persons,” said Sorreta during the trade and investment seminar conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture at the Philippine Embassy in Moscow early this month.
In February this year, a Philippine Scoping Mission visited Russia to establish contacts and explore opportunities for greater economic cooperation between the two countries.
The scoping mission served as a follow-up on the meeting of Duterte and Putin at the sidelines of APEC in Peru last year.
“The scoping mission came at the right time and did a great job of laying stronger foundations for greater trade and investment between the Philippines and Russia,” said Sorreta. “This adds to the momentum generated by our leaders towards greater cooperation on a wide range of issues,” he added.