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Russia eyes maritime exercises with Philippine vs terrorism

Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said they want to duplicate the exercises they were holding with other Southeast Asian countries by holding bilateral training here or in Moscow with Filipino sailors. AP/File

MANILA, Philippines – Russia wants to hold maritime drills with the Philippines to help combat terrorism and piracy by sending two warships to Manila for the first official navy-to-navy contact.

Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of the Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said they want to duplicate the exercises they were holding with other Southeast Asian countries by holding bilateral training here or in Moscow with Filipino sailors.

Russian anti-submarine vessel Admiral Tributs and sea tanker Boris Butoma arrived late on Tuesday for a four-day goodwill visit, with its crew expected to demonstrate anti-terrorism capability and hold talks.

“Our governments will maybe discuss in some period of time the possibilities of our maritime exercises,” Mikhailov told a news conference, adding Russia has been holding drills with the Indonesian navy.

“The biggest problem now in the world is terrorism and piracy, and all our exercises we have, for example, with you we will have to fight these problems and we will show you what we can do and we will see what you can do and show us,” Mikhailov added.

“For sure, in the future we’ll have exercises and build exercises with Philippines. Our government will be discussing… the possibilities of our maritime exercises… maybe just only maneuvering or maybe, use of combat systems and so on,” he said.

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A spokesman for the Philippine Navy told reporters this is the first official interaction with the Russian navy, an arch-rival of its former colonial master and closest ally in the region, the United States.

Washington and the Philippines have been holding naval exercises annually but President Duterte has instructed the defense department to “reformat” drills with Washington, moving away from the South China Sea to repair relations with China.

Mikhailov said they were willing to help train Philippine counterparts to fight piracy and terrorism and they hope to foster stronger security in the region.

Russia even wanted to lump together all claimants of the South China Sea in multinational war games.

“We’ll take very big, be part and play of all participants. For example, not only Russia and Philippines, but Russia, Philippines, China and maybe Malaysia together, because the main task is the safety in this region,” Mikhailov said.

He said securing the region’s waters, including the South China Sea, is a concern for all countries, including Russia.

Both Russia and China have expressed readiness to help the Philippine military pursue its capability upgrade program by offering to become its source of weapons and other military assets and equipment.

Russia, for its part, is offering to sell a submarine, drones and sniper rifles to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The Philippines has been struggling to prevent Islamist militants from abducting crew of slow-moving tugboats and foreigners sailing on yachts in the southern maritime borders with Indonesia and Malaysia.

“We will do our best from our side to help you,” Mikhailov said.

This developed as India announced yesterday that its Coast Guard ship would be docking in Manila for a three-day good will visit from Jan. 7 to 10.

The Indian vessel’s arrival is timed with the departure of the visiting Russian warships on Jan. 7.                      

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