Duterte flies to Russia for 2nd time to meet ‘idol’ Putin

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine President left for Moscow on Tuesday to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and press efforts to broaden relations while maintaining robust ties with treaty ally the United States (US).

President Rodrigo Duterte left Manila with his defence, finance and economic secretaries and other key Cabinet officials for the October 1-5 visit to Russia.

His first trip in May 2017 was cut short due to a major attack by Islamic State (IS) group-linked militants in the southern Philippines.

After taking office in mid-2016, Duterte took steps to mend relations with China which were damaged by territorial conflicts and reach out to Putin, whom he has described as his “idol,” while often criticising US security policies.

“While it is true that we value our long-standing partners, we must also be open to engage new ones,” Duterte said in a departure speech. “For the longest time, we have placed key nations at the margins of our foreign policy, failing to fully explore the potentials of mutually beneficial cooperation.”

Duterte is to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow and hold talks with Putin in Sochi city on expanding cooperation in security and defense and combatting terrorism, extremism and cross-border crimes.

A labour agreement that would allow more Filipinos to work in Russia was not finalised ahead of Duterte’s trip, officials said.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Russian officials are expected to offer a range of defence equipment, including assault and transport helicopters, warships, drones and tanks which the Philippines could acquire as it modernises its military, one of Asia’s most ill-equipped.

Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte. PHOTO: AP