PH, Russia eye defense cooperation deal this year
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines and Russia are expected to sign agreements on defense and security cooperation when President Rodrigo Duterte visits Russia this year.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said on Friday, February 17, thay this was among the topics discussed when Duterte and top Philippine security officials met Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev in Davao City on Thursday, February 16.
Esperon, who was at the meeting, said the discussions between Duterte and Patrushev included "future government-to-government cooperation" in the areas of security and intelligence, defense and military, law enforcement, the fight against drugs, transational crime, and terrorism.
"Memorandum of Understanding on these fields are being finalized by concerned agencies and are expected to be signed during the planned President's visit to Moscow," Esperon said in a statement on Friday.
No talk on joint exercises, VFA
He said that so far, the deal does not yet include a visiting forces agreement or plans to hold joint exercises.
"There's no talk yet about joint exercises. It will come as a matter of course. I would say military-to-military cooperation would be more on schooling, technology exchange, information exchange, intelligence exchange," said Esperon.
Like the Philippines' deal with China, however, it is likely there will be a deal allowing the Philippines to get defense assets from Russia, as part of the Armed Forces' goal to get equipment from multiple sources.
"We can start with trucks, aircraft, and frigates," said Esperon when asked what equipment could be sourced from Russia.
The Russian Federation Delegation spent 3 days in Davao City and had meetings with Esperon, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueño, and Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año.
Also present National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Alex Monteagudo, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Isidro Lapeña, and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano.
Top Russian security officials
The other Russian security officials at the meeting were Russia's army commander, Oleg Salyukov; and Alexey Volskiy, head of the Russian Coast Guard Department Frontier Service.
Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev was also present, along with First Deputy Minister of Justice Sergey Gerasimov and Deputy Minister of Interior Igor Zubov.
Duterte hosted a farewell dinner for the Russian delegation at the Marco Polo Hotel in on Thursday night.
Esperon said that at the dinner, the President "emphasized that the Philippines can only offer its sincerest friendship that is based on equality."
Russian President Vladimir Putin personally invited Duterte to visit Russia when they met for the first time at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting in Peru in November 2016.
The date of Duterte's visit this year has yet to be officially announced, but it is expected to be conducted during the "warmer months" in Russia, as the Philippine leader could not stand very cold weather.
Duterte is pursuing what he calls an "independent foreign policy" that seeks to forge stronger relations with countries other than the Philippines' oldest and most powerful ally, the United States.