Russia ready to be the Philippines “new reliable friend and partner”
Russia is open to forge a "long term" military cooperation with the Philippines, its diplomat said on Tuesday.
In a forum in Quezon City, Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev said Russia is "ready" to become the Philippines' "new reliable friend and partner."
Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for the first time at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting held in Lima arly this month. Putin invited Duterte to visit Russia.
"We are open for cooperation in military field with all interested parties...we are open for cooperation with all responsible members of the international community, including the Philippines," Khovaev said.
In Camp Aguinaldo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is set to visit Russia next week.
Duterte earlier ordered Lorenzana with the technical working group of the defense department to look for equipment that can be bought from Russia and China.
Lorenzana said he could leave for Russia between December 3-5.
“We will see if we need their equipment, maybe the first thing that we will look into are their sniper rifles, we heard that the sniper rifles from Russia are good,” he added.
Lorenzana said he will meet his Russian counterpart to discuss defense relations and cooperation.
Khovaev said Russia is not interested to make short-term supplies of arms and weapons.
"We are interested in long term cooperation. That's why we are ready to supply not only arms and weapons but also we are ready to transfer relevant information. We are ready to assist interested partners in training, maintenance of arms and weapons we supply and we are ready to provide our partners with the necessary assistance in order to create their own defense sector," Khovaev explained.
"We are interested in comprehensive cooperation," he said, citing Russia's military cooperation with Vietnam.
Khovaev added that Russia does not supply second-hand arms, but sophisticated ones.
"The Russian approach has no political conditionality. We never use the military supplies as an instrument to put political pressure on our partners, on other sovereign states. It's unacceptable for us," the envoy explained.
By political conditionality, he said, "it means that we will never say that we won't provide arms and weapons because of, for example, human rights concerns."
"For us, it's absolutely impossible. Business is business."
Asked if he was referring to the United States which imposes conditionality, he said he prefers to refrain from making comments on the Philippine relationship with other countries.
An issue ensued about the Philippine National Police's procurement of 26,000 rifles with an American firm after a US senator has said Manila should not be allowed to buy the arms due to the increasing number of alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects amid Duterte's war on illegal drugs.
Duterte has said during his meeting with Putin at APEC sidelines, the latter offered the Philippines a "buy one-take one" scheme if the Philippines wants to buy rifles from Russia.
Khovaev said the two sides have been discussing on a visit of Duterte to Russia which may take place on "spring."
He said Duterte may not push with the trip in January or February next year because it is very cold during that time.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, along with other government officials, is set to go to Russia early December to discuss Duterte's visit.
"Both sides should prepare solid package of documents...to be signed during this visit. The date of visit is under consideration," said the Russian envoy.
Khovaev said the two countries could promote bilateral cooperation on economic and business matters, such as mining and agriculture; culture; and people to people exchanges, particularly in tourism.
He estimated there are 4,000 Filipino workers in Russia and only about 25,000 Russian tourists visited the Philippines.
"We invite Filipinos to discover Russia," he added.
Asked to comment on Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs, Khovaev said Russia wishes success on this war.
"We understand well government's legitimate concern," he said. But he added, "as to method, we refrain from making any comment."
Some foreign governments and the human rights groups have been criticizing Duterte over the rising number of drug suspects being killed. According to police, more than 5,000 drug personalities were slain and of the number, more than 4,000 were killed during the police operations. Celerina Monte, Robina Asido/DMS