PH, Russia eye defense, security cooperation

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 February) – The Philippines and Russia will sign a memorandum of understanding that aims to enhance defense and security cooperation between the two countries, an official said.

In a press conference Friday at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the draft MOU will cover cooperation in the areas of security and intelligence, defense and military, law enforcement, terrorism and transnational crimes, anti-illegal drugs work plan, and maritime law enforcement.

The MOU is expected to be signed during the visit of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to Moscow after the ASEAN Summit in April this year, Esperon said.

He said there were no talks yet on joint military exercises similar to the US-Philippines Balikatan Exercises but added it will be up to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to discuss it with his Russian counterparts.

“We have not gone into that. Let’s leave it to Sec. Lorenzana… It will come as a matter of course but I would say that military or military cooperation would be more on schooling, technical exchange, information exchange, and intelligence exchange,” he said.

Lorenzana said the Philippines will benefit from an enhanced defense cooperation with Russia by learning from the security expertise of the latter.

“We also want to get the techniques of others. Just like in other fields, it’s better to have a practicum,” he said.

He said this will not affect the Philippines’ relationship with its long-time ally the US. He described as “very balanced” the ties between the two countries despite the tirades of President Rodrigo R. Duterte against the US.

He said the Mutual Defense Treaty binds the US and the Philippines.

Lorenzana added the Philippines will pursue an “interdependent foreign policy” instead of “an independent foreign policy” to enable the country to continuously cooperate with other allied nations like China, Japan, and South Korea.

“By constitution, we must have an independent foreign policy, but in the current situation, it can no longer be an independent foreign policy but it must be an interdependent foreign policy. We are maintaining our alliances and we are also pursuing our robust relations with our neighbors,” he said.

Duterte received on Thursday at the presidential guesthouse in Panacan here Russian officials led by Secretary Nikolay P. Patrushev of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, who arrived in the city last February 15.

Duterte and Patrushev tackled future government-to-government cooperation in the areas mentioned by Esperon.

Lorenzana said there were also talks on the purchase of equipment that will boost the Philippine military’s defense capability. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)