Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said he discussed the possibility of forging agreements with Russia on tax administration, energy, and a coronavirus vaccine in a recent meeting with outgoing Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev.

Mr. Khovaev paid a visit Tuesday to Mr. Dominguez, the Department of Finance (DoF) said in a statement Friday.

The DoF said Mr. Khovaev presented plans for potential cooperation between the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Federal Customs Service of Russia. Mr. Dominguez also sought Russia's help in improving collection efficiency at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

"Ambassador Khovaev said that Russia has shared its VAT collection technology with other countries and would assist the BIR in its effort to improve its system," the DoF read.

The DoF cited Russia's efficient VAT collection system, but provided no further details.

"Based on several reports, we have learned that the electronic VAT monitoring system of Russia has greatly improved their collections. We are very pleased that the Russian Ambassador has expressed willingness to share their technology with us. We will study their system in depth and adopt what is suitable for the Philippines," Mr. Dominguez said via Viber Friday.

The DoF said in May it is studying how the BIR can collect taxes from online transactions to stem potential VAT leakages.

The two officials also talked about a "possible agreement on energy cooperation to help boost the Philippines' power generation capacity," according to the DoF.

"Ambassador Khovaev also mentioned the possibility of producing and distributing in the Philippines the vaccine developed by Russia," it added.

The Philippines joined the third phase of clinical trials of a COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) vaccine developed in Russia.

Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila Policy Center, said developing a deeper relationship with Russia is positive for the Philippines but warned against "any lopsided arrangement to the detriment of our national interest."

"This effort to deepen economic cooperation with Russia, particularly in the areas of tax administration and energy production as you said, is only par for the course.

Nevertheless, this effort must be tempered with due consideration to national security concerns. We do not want to open our government to unlawful interference by unfriendly and unsavory elements. We do not want our political leaders to be compromised by undue foreign influence," Mr. Yusingco said in an e-mail Friday. — Beatrice M. Laforga