By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

Coming soon: Russia as military partner

Posted on February 27, 2017

RUSSIA’S potential for partnership with the Philippines, including in defense, “is really a big one” and it will take its time to introduce the “possibilities” it could offer to its new partner, a Russian lawmaker said.

Russian marines attached to the anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs display their skills during a demonstration at a park in Manila on January 5, 2017, as part of their five-day port-of-call activities in the country's capital. AFP
Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte is scheduled to visit Moscow in May, where most of the agreements he will sign are anticipated to be in the area of defense.

For his part, Andrey Klimov, a member of the Russian parliament’s Federation Council, told BusinessWorld last week he sees Russia’s potential for partnership with the Philippines in defense and other areas.

“In a period of some years, we will change the vision of our potential of cooperation in our country, and we are not in a hurry,” Mr. Klimov said, adding that Russia is keen on providing infrastructure in the Philippines, including railways, roads, and energy facilities.

“After some years, you can ask me again and you will see that our potential is really a big one... This is one of [the] possibilities [and] It is up to Philippines to choose,” he said.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Russia has not had any foreign direct investment in the Philippines since 1999.

But Russia ranked 31st out of 223 trade partners in 2015, the Department of Trade and Industry said. It is also the Philippines’ 44th largest export market (out of 211), and 27th largest source of imports (out of 203).

Last month, a Pulse Asia survey showed the United States and the United Nations, as well as Japan, having the continued trust of majority of Filipinos, in contrast to the “distrust” towards China and Russia -- superpowers being wooed by Mr. Duterte.

“Today, the Philippines is also not a main partner [of Russia]... we do not think that even in [the] future, our trade turnover with Philippines may be bigger than our trade with China or with Japan,” the Russian lawmaker said.

Bilateral trade between the two countries will be beneficial to both countries, Mr. Klimov assured. “For you it will be something very big and visible for your country, for us, we gained new friends in the area,” he said.

As Mr. Duterte’s upcoming visit to Moscow is focused on finalizing a security deal with Russia, Mr. Klimov said Russia is also capable of offering infrastructure to the Philippines.

Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said at the sidelines of the recent Bangsamoro Economic Development Summit: “Russia is not a builder. You cannot rely on them.”

Sought for comment regarding Mr. Diokno’s remarks, Mr. Klimov said: “We have to know each other much better... This is from a lack of information about my country and its potential.”

“So, if your President, if his administration is looking for military cooperation, why not? But this cooperation must be based on the international law and the very specific agreement between us because military cooperation is a very sensitive thing.” -- with Lucia Edna P. de Guzman