Rodrigo Duterte
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow in May 2017. Photo: AP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte flies to Russia to meet ‘idol’ Vladimir Putin

  • Leaders to discuss expanding cooperation in security and defence and combating terrorism, extremism and cross-border crimes
  • Russia expected to offer defence equipment, including helicopters, warships, drones and tanks, to help the Philippines modernise its military
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.
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 because of a major attack by Islamic State 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.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) poses for a photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in April 2019. Photo: AP

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 defence and combating 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.

In addition to Putin, the 74-year-old Duterte has publicly cozied up with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Duterte once said that if China and Russia were to establish a new world order, he would be the first to join them and abandon the UN, which he described as US-dominated and unsuccessful in preventing wars.

Duterte’s brutal crackdown on drugs still popular with Filipinos

Duterte, known for his brash rhetoric, said his foreign policy “is based on respect for sovereignty and non-interference, the time-honoured principles of international law”.

“Apparently this most basic principle of a rule that governs the relations between nations has been forgotten by some idiots in some parts of the world,” he said.

Duterte has denounced 18 countries which backed an Iceland-initiated resolution in July that asked the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to look into human rights conditions in the Philippines amid his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs that has left thousands of mostly petty drug suspects dead.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Duterte heads to Russia to meet ‘idol’ Putin in hunt for new ties