Corporate News

Trade group backs Duterte’s pivot to Russia

Posted on October 05, 2016

THE Philippine Russian Business Assembly (PRBA), Inc. is giving ”all-out” support for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s recent pronouncement to expand trade relations with the Russian Federation.

In particular, the PRBA is looking to expand Manila’s trade relations with Russia in the tourism and wellness sector; mining and energy; education and culture; labor, placement services and outsourcing; and real estate.

Russian Federation Honorary Consul Armi Lopez Garcia, who also chairs the PRBA, made the announcement on Tuesday, following Mr. Duterte’s assertion last week that he would strengthen the country’s economic ties with China and Russia.

“We, in the PRBA, are fully supporting this initiative of President Duterte. The President’s declaration bolsters our very own initiative, which is for the furtherance of our business ties with Russia,” Ms. Garcia said in a statement.

PRBA, which she founded, is an organization of Philippine and Russian businessmen in the Philippines. Its counterpart in Russia is the Russian-Philippines Business Council of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Marita Limlingan, PRBA member and Philippine representative of Russian airline Aeroflot, for her part said Mr. Duterte’s statements “will give the tourism industry a boost as this translates to more tourists from Russia,” which paves the way for trade investment to the country.

“We hope to generate more trade opportunities and strengthen our bilateral relationship with Russia through tourism,” Ms. Limlingan said.

According to the Department of Tourism, 25,278 Russian tourists visited the Philippines in 2015. Moscow along with the Middle East, Europe and Japan are considered as high-yield tourist markets for the Philippines, with $1,000 spending per visitor.

The Russian Federation’s trade with the Philippines slowly crumbled starting in 2005 when the world plunged into one of the worst financial crisis. As the decline continued for three years at an average rate of 14.55%, the two countries saw the need to revitalize their gradually failing trade relationship. Thus, the PRBA, composed of both Filipino and Russian businessmen and academicians, was established in 2009, coincidentally the same year the bilateral trade perked up.

In 2011, as proof of the PRBA’s commitment, the organization signed a memorandum of agreement with the Russian-Philippine Business Council to strengthen the economic ties between the two countries.

According to the Consulate of Russian Federation in the Philippines, bilateral trade between the two countries grew by more than 80% to exceed $713 million in 2010. Top Philippine exports to Russia include desiccated coconut, carrageenan, lighters, personal care products, and banana chips.

Last week, Mr. Duterte said he would seek closer economic ties with China and Russia. “I will open trade alliances with Russia and China so all you other investors, just go. No problem,” he said in a speech at the presidential palace.

Mr. Duterte has attracted widespread criticism from Western governments and human rights groups for a bloody crime crackdown that has claimed more than 3,300 lives since he took office on June 30.

International credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s warned last month that Mr. Duterte’s war on illegal drugs was threatening the Philippine economy and endangering its democratic institutions.

It also said his unpredictable foreign policy and national security statements were other downsides that meant a credit upgrade for the Philippines was unlikely in the next two years. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin