Duterte talks COVID-19, defense cooperation with Russia's Putin
This handout photo shows President Rodrigo Duterte in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 13, 2021
Presidential photo

Duterte talks COVID-19, defense cooperation with Russia's Putin

(Philstar.com) - April 13, 2021 - 9:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte was in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday night, where the two reaffirmed commitment and tackled issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, defense, and the economy, the Palace said.

Malacañang, in a statement, described the 30-minute call as "open and productive" as Manila and Moscow mark the 45th year since establishing diplomatic ties. 

"The President thanked President Putin for Russia's commitment to bolster cooperation in various areas, including in combating the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement read. 

Duterte in his nearly five years in office sought to steer the country away from its longtime Western allies such as the United States and foster closer ties with countries such as Russia and China.

On COVID-19 jabs, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said most of the supplies arriving until July this year are from the two nations. Beijing's donated Sinovac was the first to reach the country, while some 1.5 million doses have also arrived as the Duterte administration's first direct purchase. 

The Palace said Tuesday that the Philippines is ordering 20 million doses of Moscow's Sputnik V. Galvez had said too that some initial 20,000 doses will be delivered this week.

"Both leaders also noted the steady progress in defense and security cooperation between the two countries," the Palace continued, "fostered by regular exchanges between defense, intelligence and military agencies, and vowed to sustain the momentum gained over the past five years."

The administration in 2018 reasserted that it can enter into contracts for purchase of Russian military hardware, amid concerns that such can hurt relations with Washington. It is unclear if such discussions came into fruition.

Among other things discussed, Putin was said to have stressed the "many opportunities for greater cooperation" on trade and investments, agriculture as well as energy development.

Duterte also invited the Russian leader to the Philippines, which the Palace said Putin welcomed.

RELATED: PDP-Laban inks memorandum with Russia's ruling party

The two have long been viewed by the international community as strongmen. In 2018, Duterte and Putin made it to TIME magazine's cover story with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungary's Viktor Orban.

"These tough-talking populists promise to protect 'us' from 'them'," the TIME article read. "Depending on who's talking, 'them' can mean the corrupt elite or the grasping poor; foreigners or members of racial, ethnic or religious minorities. Or disloyal politicians, bureaucrats, bankers or judges. Or lying reporters." — Christian Deiparine

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