Medvedev's visit to expand Russian ties with PH

MANILA, Philippines – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will be signing several agreements during his visit to the Philippines to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits.

Medvedev is expected to arrive Sunday afternoon, November 12, along with other world leaders attending the summit.

Apart from holding a dialogue with ASEAN partners, he will sign deals with the Philippine government relating to transport, energy, and education.

"He (Putin) says that his Prime Minister will attend the ASEAN meeting in a few days and that they will sign agreements relating to education, transport, and energy," Roque said in a press conference in Vietnam on Friday, November 10, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Summit. 

Medvedev will also discuss with his Filipino counterparts how their lawmakers and foreign ministers could improve relations and how their militaries could strengthen security cooperation.

No defense agreements will be signed during Medvedev's trip, however, according to Department of National Defense Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.

Medvedev's trip to the Philippines come after a bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vietnam on Friday, November 10. (READ: Duterte, Putin eye stronger PH-Russia defense cooperation, trade)

Energy, transportation

Roque said Putin relayed that an energy company is interested in investing in the Philippines. 

There is supposedly an interest to build light rail transport system in Baguio and La Trinidad in Benguet as well as sell to the Philippines aircrafts and helicopters.

Roque said Russia is interested to build a maintenance center for Russian ships in the Philippines. Russia also wants to sell at least 10 high-speed boats and other types of boats. 

"In return, they’re very interested in importing fish, fruit, and other sea foods while they want to export grain and meat to the Philippines," Roque said. 

Russia also supposedly dedicated a week to officially honor Philippine culture in order to encourage its citizens to visit the country. 

PH pivot to Russia from US?

President Rodrigo Duterte sought closer ties with Russia in his bid to pivot away from the United States. Duterte made a punching bag out of the US last year amid criticisms made by former President Barack Obama against his controversial war on drugs. 

Duterte visited Russia in May but he was forced to cut the trip short when the war erupted in Marawi. It was in Russia where Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao. 

Duterte had once called Putin his "hero," hailing him for standing up to the US. (READ: Duterte to Russia: I'm about to 'cross Rubicon' with US)

But Duterte had shown a liking for Obama's successor, President Donald Trump, who supposedly supports his controversial campaign.

Trump's national security adviser, HR McMaster, is confident US ties with the Philippines will remain strong despite earlier threats from Duterte. (READ: Duterte's pivot from US will turn into a pirouette – Trump adviser

Last week, Duterte declared that the Philippines and the US remain to be "the best of friends."

Military ties

The Duterte administration ushered in closer security ties with Russia. Their milities have started engaging in activities that were largely exclusive to the US military in the past. 

Russian warships occasionally dock in the Philippine but in January 2017, Russian Navy officials for the first time had a series of interactions with their Filipino counterparts.

The arrivial of Russian warships had since been celebrated with media events.

In October, Russia donated military equipment as the Philippines fought local armed groups linked with Islamic State (ISIS). Duterte said he is inclined to buy weapons from Russia, a swipe at the US which threatened to block an arms sale over his human rights record.

Roque said Putin also invited the Philippine military to train in Russia. There is also a plan to appoint a military attaché in Manila. – Rappler.com