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Duterte to witness signing of defense, trade deals in Russia visit

President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss possible political, defense and military cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his official visit to Moscow next week. Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to witness the signing of several bilateral agreements during his official visit to Russia next week.

"These agreements are those related to defense, security, legal assistance, trade and investment, peaceful use of nuclear energy and culture," Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad said in a press briefing Friday.

The president is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to Moscow from May 22 to 26, marking a new chapter in Philippines-Russia relations.

The upcoming meeting follows the meeting of Duterte with Putin at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Lima, Peru in November last year. Duterte had also met with Medvedev during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Vientiane, Laos last September.

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Duterte will discuss important issues and areas of cooperation and economic partnership with Medvedev while his meeting with Putin will dwell on cooperation in political, military and defense.

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"The two presidents will witness agreements that are related to defense cooperation, military and technical cooperation, the treaty on mutual legal assistance on criminal matters, treaty on extradition, a [memorandum of agreement] on cooperation in the field of security between respective national security councils," Natividad said.

Natividad noted that the agreement on military cooperation will pave the way for the country to explore the possibility of procuring military equipment from Russia.

"There is really nothing that would stop Russia from participating in the defense modernization program of the Philippines," the foreign affairs official said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that the Philippines is looking for a partnership with countries that would be most compatible with the the country's defense needs, particularly in interoperability.

Duterte is set to deliver a policy speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations to discuss his administration's commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy.

The president will also be bringing a business delegation for the Philippines-Russia business forum in Moscow, according to Natividad.

"Both the Philippines and Russia recognize that there is a need to explore many untapped opportunities for mutually beneficial econ relations," Natividad said, adding that Russian investments in the country are very modest.

On his second day in Moscow, Duterte will meet the Filipino community in Russia, as well as nearby countries. There are about 5,000 Filipinos in Russia, Natividad said.

"We believe that the president's visit will be the start of a strong and enduring partnership between the Philippines and Russia that is multi-dimensional, mutually beneficial and will be in keeping with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and equality," the Foreign Affairs executive said.

Duterte's first visit to Russia would send a strong message of the country's commitment to seek new partnerships and strengthen relations with non-traditional partners.

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