Duterte: Russia helped turn tide in Marawi
Da Nang, Vietnam—President Duterte on Friday thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for helping “turn the tide” in the fight against Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.
The President said the Philippines was going to buy more arms from Russia and also wanted to increase trade between the two countries, following up on Russia’s promise to buy $2.5 billion worth of Philippine products.
“I would like to convey to you the gratitude of the Filipino people for your timely assistance, especially the trucks and the arms that you sent because we have to replenish—the supplies were getting low,” Mr. Duterte told Putin at the start of their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Da Nang.
“In a way, you helped us turn the tide and to shorten the war there because of your assistance,” Mr. Duterte said. “So again, I thank you very much, the Russian people, and you, Mr. President. We will remember you for all time.”
Russia donated 20 multipurpose vehicles, 5,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, one million rounds of ammunition and 5,000 steel helmets last month during a visit to the Philippines by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a first-ever visit by a Russian defense minister to the Philippines.
However, the weapons shipment, believed to be the first ever from Russia to the US security ally, arrived on Oct. 25, a week after Mr. Duterte declared victory over the pro-IS fighters in Marawi.
“According to my soldiers, the arms that you sent are very accurate and they were able to take care of the snipers that abounded,” Mr. Duterte said.
“Just like in Syria, there’s a new kind of war and the cover is cement, concrete and iron so we had a hard time just like in the other places in the Middle East because we had to fight it out building for building,” he told Putin.
He said he initially intended to buy weapons from the US but “the United States has equal authority of Congress and President, so it was not so simple.”
Mr. Duterte last year threatened to sever defense ties with Washington following criticism from the administration of former US President Barack Obama over his crackdown on drugs, which has seen police kill thousands of people.
“That is my dream that before I finish my presidency, I want to build a strong armed forces and a strong police and the reason is very important for you to know that we are eyeing, we are buying arms from Russia this time,” he said.
“So … the new arms that I got from you, sir, were given to the special units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.
In a reserved response, Putin said weapons were important “but what is even more important is your desire to (win) … and the readiness of your Armed Forces.”
Putin added that fighting terrorism was a common concern for Russia and the Philippines.
“You told me while you were leaving Russia, you told me that you had to go back and install law and order to attack terrorists. That’s why I’d like to say that you managed to do just that,” Putin said.
“I would like to say that terrorism is one of our common problems and common challenge and following our agreement, we are ready to keep developing our relations, including in the military area and the tactical and military area,” he added.
The Russian leader also said “special attention should be paid to our economic ties.”
“Unfortunately, our economic ties are at the lower level although we can see a certain increase in these relations recently,” he added.
“It’s a real pleasure, Mr. President to meet you again,” Putin said.
In an interview with reporters on Thursday night, Mr. Duterte said he had planned a very brief trip to Moscow just to thank the Russians for their timely assistance.
“Actually, I was planning to go to Russia for just a few hours and to thank them for their help, the timely help. Just a few hours to say, ‘President Putin, thank you,’” he said.
He also said he would like to have “a small window” to export Philippine products.
Mr. Duterte said Manila could buy Russian arms through “a soft loan with enough years to earn the money to pay them.”
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier said Russia had promised to buy $2.5 billion worth of agricultural products from the Philippines. —WITH A REPORT FROM AFP
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