MANILA: With Cabinet officials in tow, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte toured the Admiral Tributs, a Russian antisubmarine vessel that together with a sea tanker, the Boris Butoma, is on a goodwill visit to Manila.
“We welcome our Russian friends. Anytime you want to dock here for anything, for play, for replenishing of supplies or maybe our ally to protect us,” Duterte said while shaking hands with Rear Adm. Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of the Flotilla of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet.
Duterte’s remarks came a day after Russian Ambassador Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev said his country was ready to supply the Philippines with sophisticated weapons and aimed to become its close friend.
Duterte has thrown into question the future of the Philippines relations with its longtime ally, the United States, with angry outbursts over US criticism of human rights violations in his war on drugs and some scaling back of military cooperation with Washington while taking steps to improve ties with China and Russia.
He is due to visit Moscow in April.
The visit by the two Russian warships to Manila was the first official navy-to-navy contact between Russia and the Philippines.
On Tuesday, Mikhailov said Russia wanted to hold maritime exercises with the Philippines to help combat terrorism and piracy.
“Friends, long live. That’s from the heart,” Duterte told Russian Navy officers, thumping his chest for emphasis, after signing the Admiral Tributs’ guest book.
“I hope you can come back more often,” he said.
Video footage from Malacanang showed the Russian Navy officers applauding Duterte’s statement.
Duterte and his Cabinet officials also posed for pictures with the Russian Navy officers, who imitated his signature clenched-fist stance.
Wearing a barong Tagalog, Duterte toured the ship in the company of the Russian Navy officers and Khovaev.
Duterte was given arrival honours at Pier 15 of the Manila International Harbour before he boarded the Admiral Tributs’ ship tour.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who was also on the tour, said that during his trip to Russia in early December, he agreed with Russian defence officials to finalise a memorandum of understanding that would be the basis of future military engagements, including joint military exercises, so it could be signed during Duterte’s visit to Moscow — Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network