Duterte hopes to boost ties with Russia

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to “correct” the country’s over-dependence on traditional partners such as the United States as he embarked on a visit aimed at boosting ties with Russia.

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Duterte lamented that, while the Philippines and Russia have had diplomatic relations for the past 40 years, co-operation has remained minimal and must be increased for the mutual benefit of the two countries.

“Russia must cease to be at the margins of Philippine diplomacy,” he said in a speech before leaving for Moscow.

“Over-dependence on traditional partners has limited our room to manoeuvre in a very dynamic international arena.”

“This is a strategic oversight that has led to many missed opportunities for our country. I am determined to correct this.”

Duterte said he would push for “pragmatic engagement in the politico-security sphere, increased economic co-operation, and enhanced cultural and people-to-people exchanges” in meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

“My visit underscores the independence of the Philippines’ foreign policy and the firm resolve to broaden the horizons of friendship and cooperation with other nations,” he said.

“Russia is a country that we must work with. There are opportunities for co-operation that cannot be ignored.”

Duterte has been forging stronger ties with such non-traditional partners as Russia and China as part of an effort to shift the country’s foreign policy away from long-time ally, the US, which has criticised his anti-drug campaign, which has left thousands dead.

He has an invitation to meet with US President Donald Trump, but no date has been set.