Two Russian warships arrived at a Manila harbor Tuesday for a goodwill visit that will feature maritime exercises. The four-day visit by a Russian anti-submarine ship and sea tanker comes as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte seeks to improve relations with Moscow in pursuit of an “independent” foreign policy.
The Russian Navy’s Pacific deputy commander, Rear Adm. Eduard Mikhailov, told reporters in Manila’s South Harbor that they are ready to help the Philippines in combatting terrorism and piracy.
“From us, on our side, we can help you in every way which you need,” he was quoted as saying by the Rappler news website.
“One of the main problem is the terrorist and piracy… And we [Russia] have very good experience to fight with it. In the future, maybe future exercises will… take to you our knowledge in this problem. How to solve… the piracy and terrorism,” he underlined.
Mikhailov said that Russia’s Navy has a “variety of equipment” it can show the Philippines, and that naval officers from both sides would meet during the visit.
“Our visit will end with maritime exercises which we have a maneuver at sea with the vessel of your Navy,” he said through an interpreter.
While Russian warships have docked in the Philippines in the past, Rappler reported that this week’s visit would be the first time in which officers from the navies would engage in a series of interactions.
Since taking office June 30, Duterte has announced his administration’s pursuit of an “independent” foreign policy, declaring his country’s “separation” from long-time ally the United State as it seeks to improve relations with Russia and China.
The Philippines is pushing its military modernization program as it confronts internal security problems from armed militant groups across the archipelago — and their piracy activities in the Sulu and Celebes seas.
Duterte has also undertaken efforts to improve ties with Beijing — a shift from the policy of his predecessor Benigno Aquino III, whose administration had filed an arbitration case over China’s perceived “aggression” in disputed waters of the South China Sea — which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
On Tuesday, Mikhailov also said that Moscow is “very confident that in a few years” Russia would conduct joint military exercises in the sea involving “not only Russia, Philippines, but Russia, Philippines, China, and maybe Malaysia together”.
“Because the main task is the safety in this region,” he underlined.—Agencies