PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, October 3, agreed to work towards stronger economic and defense cooperation between Manila and Moscow in an effort to fight terrorism.
The two leaders made the commitment following their bilateral meeting held Wednesday, October 2, at Polyana Hotel in Sochi, Russia.
Duterte said he was looking forward to the Philippines' "robust and comprehensive" partnership with Russia, as he noted that his May 2017 visit to Moscow led to substantial growth in the bilateral cooperation between the two nations on various fields.
"In the past two years, we have seen a dramatic increase in bilateral activities across many areas of cooperation at various levels of government. We have also made historic firsts in the key strategic areas from economic, defense, security and military technical cooperation," the President said in an opening statement.
"It is imperative to sustain these consultative dialogues and enhance our mechanism to further strengthen the foundation of our growing relationships," he added.
Putin, for his part, said Moscow is ready to help Manila in addressing terror threats.
The Russian leader also acknowledged that Duterte made significant strides in lowering terror acts in the Philippines since the Maute extremist group laid siege to Marawi City from May to October 2017.
"As for our bilateral relationships, I would like to highlight that the Philippines is a very important partner of Russia in Asia. Our bilateral cooperation is constructive and mutually beneficial but our friendly relationships between our two countries," Putin said.
"We are prepared to develop our partnership when it comes to countering terrorism and share our experience and all the developments," he added.
Duterte's first trip to Russia was in May 2017 but he had to cut his visit short when fighting erupted in Marawi City.
Duterte was elated that in the past two years, the national security councils of the two nations have been meeting regularly to discuss defense, security and law enforcement matters.
Meantime, Putin took note of the success in Manila and Moscow's trade and economic cooperation.
Putin said the trade between the two countries had doubled.
"We have reached lots of success in our trade and economic cooperation. Last year, our trading has grown two-fold. So it was more than $1.2 billion. And Russian export also grew four-fold," the Russian president said.
"We have major reserves in place and Russian companies are ready to increase the supplies of energy carriers, aircraft, transport, special equipment," he added.
Putin also expressed intent to improve Russia's cooperation with the Philippines in terms of exploration of space and use of digital technologies.
Duterte said his administration was up for closer bilateral ties with Russia in his remaining three years in office.
"I am therefore happy with this opportunity to continue our dialogue with the view of identifying vital areas of cooperation which where we should concentrate our efforts in the coming years," he said. (SunStar Philippines)