Duterte woos Russia, bids to be its ‘partner’

Credit to Author: Catherine S. Valente, TMT| Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2020 13:35:28 +0000

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte expressed his appreciation for his new allies, Russia and China, because they respected Philippine sovereignty.

“I’m sure Russia could come here and look for viable businesses. We do not consider the distance as a limit in our friendship, in our desire to be a partner of Russia and the rest of the eastern countries in trade and commerce,” Duterte said in an exclusive interview aired on Russia Today on Friday.

“We don’t think that the distance is on the minus side. It’s a plus side and nothing can really be a hindrance if you really want to do it with another country,” he said.

Duterte made the statement as he disclosed that the Philippines would buy 12 cargo helicopters as part of the military’s modernization program.

“We had our priorities. I was buying for 12 cargo helicopters and you know we are not a rich country. However, we programmed the funds of government, how to budget it. There’s not always not enough to go around with,” Duterte said.

“I’m sure we will have to make the down payment and be prompt in our (payment). Just because Russia is a friend, it doesn’t follow that we abscond or do not pay our debts,” he added.

The President visited Russia for the second time in October last year to reaffirm his administration’s commitment to strengthen relations. More than P620 million in business deals were also signed during the visit.

Duterte’s trip to Russia for the first time in May 2017 was cut short after Marawi in Mindanao was attacked by local terrorists under the Maute group. The conflict lasted until October, which ended with the death of its leaders.

Duterte’s favorable statements toward Russia and China came as he ordered the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States late Thursday.

The President’s sudden decision stemmed from the cancellation of the US visa of his former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, now Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, along with several others, over the arrest and detention of Duterte critic, Sen. Leila de Lima.

The US Senate had passed a resolution banning de Lima’s jailers from entering the US.

Before this, Duterte turned down an invitation from President Donald Trump to attend a summit between the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in March.

Meanwhile, Duterte has strengthened ties with China amid an ongoing territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The President has visited Beijing four times over the first three years of his term and has expressed his admiration repeatedly for his counterpart Xi Jinping.