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Duterte, Putin cozy up in meet

DA NANG – Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his country’s intent to improve its economic ties with the Philippines during his bilateral meeting yesterday with President Duterte here on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. 

Apart from improving economic ties, Duterte and Putin also agreed to fight terrorism, with the Russian leader describing terrorism as a “common problem” and “common challenge” between the two countries as well as the rest of the world. 

Putin pushed for increased defense and military relations with the Philippines – a known defense ally of the US. 

“I would like to say that terrorism is one of our common problems and common challenges and following our agreement, we are ready to keep developing our relations, including tactical and military areas,” Putin told Duterte during their talks at the Vinpearl Da Nang Resort and Villas. 

Putin pushed for better trade and economic ties between Moscow and Manila. 

“I have no doubt, special attention should be paid to our economic ties,” Putin said. “Unfortunately, these are at the lower level although we can see a certain increase in these relations recently.”

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Putin said it was  a “real pleasure” to meet Duterte again. 

Duterte’s meeting with Putin is part of his series of bilateral meetings on the sideline of the APEC. Last Thursday, Duterte met separately with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. 

He is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow before returning to Manila in time for the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and related meetings.

Duterte will be holding bilateral talks with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the ASEAN meets. 

It is the third time that Duterte and Putin met since last year. The first time was during the APEC meeting in Peru, followed by the Duterte’s official visit last May to Moscow and now in Vietnam.

Putin recalled his brief meeting with Duterte last May, where the latter cut off his trip to address the terrorist attacks in Marawi.

For his part, Duterte said the Philippines “will remember you for all time” while he thanked Russia for sending firearms at the height of the Marawi crisis in Mindanao.

Duterte slams US

Duterte ranted about how the US Congress had derailed the Philippines’ procurement of arms, which was a result of American lawmakers’ criticism of the administration’s blood drug war marred by extrajudicial killings. 

According to Duterte, Russia’s arms assistance was timely because it was badly needed to boost the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police’s capability.

“Because at that time we were short of arms for the police and we wanted to buy (these) from America but because of the almost equal power of the US Congress and the President, (the procurement) was stymied by the legislators,” Duterte said.

“So, the 23,000 that I ordered (were) scrapped. Your timely assistance to my country helped us replenish the old arms and the spent bores that were fired repeatedly. (Now) we have a new stock,” he said.

Duterte said he had ordered that Russian firearms be used for the special units of the AFP.

“In a way, you helped us turn the tide and to shorten the war there because of your assistance,” he added, telling Putin about the accuracy of the sniper guns that helped quell the siege in Marawi.

“Just like in Syria, there’s a new kind of war and the cover is cement, concrete and iron so we had a hard time just like in other places in the Middle East because we had to fight it out building to building,” Duterte said.

Duterte also talked about his dream to have a “strong” military when he steps down from office in 2022.

“(My dream is that even) before I finish my presidency, I want to build a strong Armed Forces and a strong police (force). It is very important for you to know that we are eyeing, we are buying arms from Russia,” he said.

In a briefing here last Thursday night, Duterte said he would extend his gratitude to Putin for helping the military and the police in boosting their defense capability, especially during the critical time when the AFP was leading the fight against IS-inspired terrorists in Marawi.

“The new guns are a welcome sight so that we can replace (those which) are ‘over-fired,’ if I may use the term,” Duterte said. 

Last month, Duterte witnessed the turnover of military equipment from Russia, which includes 20 units of multi-purpose vehicles, 5,000 units of AK-74M Kalashnikov assault rifles, one million units of ammunition and 5,000 steel helmets.

Duterte toured Russian ship Admiral Pantaleev where the military equipment was turned over. 

“(They) should know that we nurture gratitude,” he said. 

Apart from Russia, Duterte revealed that the US also allowed the Philippines to use modern warfare equipment.

Russian companies upbeat on Phl

Russian companies are upbeat on investing in the Philippines, particularly in the areas of nuclear energy, transportation and infrastructure, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said last night. 

Interviewed after the bilateral meeting between Duterte and Putin on the sidelines of the APEC forum here, Roque said both leaders vowed to further improve economic, trade and diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Roque said Putin has regarded relations between the Philippines and Russia as “positive and constructive.” 

Putin has endorsed  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to attend the ASEAN meeting in Manila next week, where the two countries “will sign agreements relating to education, transport and energy.” 

Putin also pushed further improvement in the defense and foreign departments as he pressed the signing of more agreements on the defense portfolio.

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