By Aaron Recuenco
The Defense departments of the Philippines and Russia have signed military trainings and exercises agreement in Moscow.
Arsenio Andolong, spokesman of the Department of National Defense (DND), the signing of the Terms of Reference of the Joint Working Group (JWG) will pave the way for the improved military cooperation between the Philippines and Russian military.
“The JWG serves as a platform for both countries to discuss military-to-military engagements or activities for both countries,” said Andolong.
The second meeting was held in Moscow on November 7 and it was during that meeting that the Terms of Reference was signed, according to Andolong.
The JWG, Andolong explained, is in accordance with the 2017 Agreement on Defense Cooperation between the Department of National Defense (DND) of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Defense (MOD) of the Russian Federation.
During the meeting, Andolong said the two countries finalized the plan of military cooperation activities.
The plan consists of activities and engagements, which both sides agreed to conduct in 2019 to include high-level exchanges, port visits of navy vessels, attendance in conferences/fora, general staff consultations, cooperation and security consultations, reciprocal visits of delegations and observers for military training activities, and education and training exchanges.
Even before the signing, some Russian warships have already visited the country. Recently, a Philippine Navy warship made a visit to Russia.
The Philippine side was headed by Asec Teodoro Cirilo T. Torralba III, Assistant Secretary for Assessments and International Affairs, while Col. Maxim Vladimirovich Penkin, head of the 5th Department of the Main Directorate of the International Military Cooperation, led the Russian side.
Aside from Russia, the Philippines has strengthened its defense cooperation with China since President Duterte was elected in 2016.
The Philippines is a long-time ally of the United States and the relationship between the two countries was affected by the human rights issues on Duterte’s drug war.