A RUSSIAN Ambassador says he expects continued bilateral cooperation with the Philippines amid growing global sanctions.

Russia’s ambassador to the Philippines on Monday said that he expects bilateral cooperation with the Philippines to continue amid growing global sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

“We have many fields of cooperation, so we hope the Philippine side will continue to cooperate with us and interact with us in different fields, and it will be considered an act of our friendship,” Russian Ambassador Marat Ignatyevich Pavlov told a forum.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week called Russian President Vladimir Putin his personal friend, vowing to stay neutral on the Russia-Ukraine war. He said he would not send a single Filipino soldier to war because it is “not our battle to fight.”

Mr. Duterte might open the country’s facilities to the US if the Ukraine-Russia crisis spills over to Asia, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said last week, citing the country’s “special relationship” with the US.

Mr. Pavlov called Mr. Duterte’s pronouncement of neutrality a “wise position” because both nations have been showing “an equal, fair and mutually beneficial interaction in many fields.”

“The economic cooperation between the two countries has been steadily growing,” he said, noting that bilateral trade hit $1.2 billion (P62.9 billion) in 2019 from just $486 million in 2010.

“Russia is ready to satisfy the Philippine side’s demand for fuel and food supplies,” including pork and fish, he added.

Mr. Pavlov said Russian companies are interested in building power plants in the Philippines as well as in energy, oil and gas exploration projections.

He also found promising a potential cooperation on the development of nuclear energy. The Philippines, he added, has confirmed its readiness to conduct a feasibility study to install nuclear power facilities in the country.

“Our bilateral trade and economic relations have a great potential for further development,” Mr. Pavlov said.

Russia has released a list of 48 “unfriendly” countries and territories whose corporate deals would now need government approval after they joined a global drive to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

“It’s easier to pull down than to build,” Mr. Pavlov said, calling the response of the West “hysterical and out of proportion.”

“The goal of the sanctions is much more strategic than just Ukraine,” he said. “We are witnessing in Ukraine the acquiescence of the western course — a strategic course to marginalize Russia, to contain Russia, to stop Russian development and to reduce Russia to zero growth,” he added. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan