PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte's decision to ink a defense deal with the Russian government when he visits Moscow in May is part of his independent foreign policy, a Palace spokesperson said Friday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Duterte is eyeing to have closer ties with Russia but would still keep its relationship with allied countries like the United States.

"The President's decision to pivot with Russia forms part of his independent foreign policy. We seek new or enhanced partnerships based on equality," Abella said.

"This new alliance will not exclude other relationships. The United States will remain an ally," he added.

Duterte met with Russian Federation delegation led by Russian Federation Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev in Panacan, Davao City on Thursday.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said in a press conference that during the meeting, Duterte stressed that the Philippines "can only offer its sincerest friendship that is based on equality."

Esperon said the Philippine delegation had a bilateral talk with Russian delegation, discussing the future government-to-government cooperation in the fields of security and intelligence; defense and military; law enforcement; terrorism and transnational crime; anti-illegal drugs work plan; and maritime law enforcement.

"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," he said.

Abella said the bilateral meeting was a "concrete" example of the improving ties between the Philippines and Russia. (SunStar Philippines)