By Roy Mabasa
The Philippines-Russia defense and security cooperation is on the “right track,” according to Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev.
He made this assessment when asked to comment on whether he is satisfied with how the defense cooperation between the two countries is moving forward since President Duterte made two separate visits to Russia in 2017 and 2019.
“Yes, we are on the right track,” Khovaev told reporters at the International Day of Commemoration of the Holocaust victims on Monday.
He said Russia attaches “great importance” to the defense cooperation with the Philippines, a relationship that has shown considerable improvement under the Duterte administration.
“We are ready and we are taking necessary measures in order to help your country to increase your defense capability,” Khovaev added.
Khovaev, however, declined to comment if Duterte’s threat of abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) will benefit Philippine-Russia relations.
“As a Russian diplomat I am not in the position to make comments on your domestic political developments and on the relationship between the Philippines and other countries,” he said.
Shortly after Duterte’s second visit to Russia in October last year, Khovaev confirmed that the Philippines and Russia are “actively working” on the acquisition of several Mi-171 Russian helicopters for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He added that Russia is also looking to increase military-to-military exchanges with the Philippines such as the training of Filipino cadets in Russian military institutions, and the organization of joint military exercises with the AFP.
He emphasized that all offers from Russia are made with “no political conditions.”