Duterte asks Putin for a loan to purchase firearms

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte asks Putin for a loan to purchase firearms

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Maxim Shemetov/Pool Photo via AP

MOSCOW — President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking a loan from Russia to buy firearms after the United States halted a rifle deal over his administration’s track record on human rights.
Duterte asked Russia President Vladimir Putin for a loan during their meeting in Kremlin on Tuesday hours before the Philippine leader flew to Manila to check the situation in Marawi, which was attacked by bandits with ties to the Islamic State.
“If you (Putin) can grant me a soft loan right now… The arms deal with America got canceled,” Duterte told Putin during the meeting.
Putin did not respond to the request for loan during his opening statement. It was not clear whether the Russian government approved the request as members of the media were asked to leave the venue of the meeting after the opening statements.
Last year, the US State Department stopped the sale of some 27,000 rifles to the Philippine National Police after Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin had raised concerns over the alleged human rights violations under the Duterte administration.
The US government under then President Barack Obama repeatedly criticized the spate of killings linked to Duterte’s clampdown on illegal drugs, a move that the Philippine president viewed as an interference with the country's internal affairs.
In November, Duterte said he has ordered the PNP to cancel the purchase of rifles from the US, saying the police would have to look for another source that offers cheaper and durable firearms.   
But in the same month, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Duterte had allowed him to pursue the deal after informing him that the supplier, Sig Sauer, was not expecting any hindrance in the processing of licenses at the US State Department.  
Duterte could not help taking a jab at western nations during his meeting with Putin, something he also did during his meeting with the Russian leader in Peru last November.
“I came here to see your place, to establish strong bilateral relationship. I have gone out of the ambit of the western influence. Nothing has happened since the occupation. I’m referring to the Americans,” Duterte said.
During the November meeting, Duterte assailed the US, a traditional ally of the Philippines, and other western nations for supposedly forcing smaller nations to join the war they waged.
In an earlier interview, Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said Russians do not impose conditions and limitations on countries that buy firearms from them. He said this was unlike the US, which provided the Philippines with armaments that were “loaded with conditionalities.”
“I have always believed that our brave men and women in uniform should not be going into battle carrying arms attached to strings that run all the way to Washington,” the envoy said in a press conference here on Tuesday.

‘I come to seek your friendship’

Duterte told Putin he wants to strengthen the Philippines’ economic cooperation with Russia, which is now seeking closer ties with Asian countries.
“I come to seek your friendship and to trade, establish trade and commerce with your country,” the Philippine president said.
Putin said he was happy to see Duterte here and that he seized the chance to see him in person even if he spent the rest of the day away from the Russian capital.
However, Putin lamented that the trade exchanges between Manila and Moscow were “not too high” even if they established diplomatic ties more than 41 years ago.  
“But at the start of this year, it started rebounding, increasing by around 25 percent. And we have very many promising and interesting areas of cooperation, including on energy machine building, transport and infrastructure,” Putin said through an interpreter.   
“And I think we can cooperate in many different technical sphere,” he added.
The trade volume between the Philippines and Russia hit $422 million last year. In 2015, Russia was the Philippines’ 31st trading partner, 44th export market and 27th import supplier.
Putin said the Philippine and Russian governments have “worked hard and prepared a full package of bilateral documents and instruments.” 
The signing of the agreements will push through despite the Philippine leader’s decision to cut short his four-day official visit here. Duterte was supposed to witness the signing of the agreements but decided to return to the Philippines earlier than scheduled to personally oversee the situation in Marawi.
The agreements to be signed include defense cooperation, military and technical cooperation, a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, a treaty on extradition, and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of security between the two countries’ national security councils.

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