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21 Oct, 2016 07:55

‘Make a wish list’: Russian ambassador says Moscow ready to provide assistance to Philippines

‘Make a wish list’: Russian ambassador says Moscow ready to provide assistance to Philippines

After the president of the Philippines announced a separation from the US – a statement which his government has since walked back – Russia’s ambassador to the country said Moscow is ready to provide assistance to and fully cooperate with Manila.

“Formulate your wish list. What kind of assistance do you expect from Russia and we will be ready to sit down with you and discuss what can and should be done,” Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev told GMA News on Friday.

He went on to state that Russia is open to working with the Philippines in “any area, any field of possible cooperation.”

The ambassador assured the news outlet that Moscow would not “interfere with the domestic affairs of a sovereign state,” and that the “true Russia” is much different than the one portrayed in Hollywood films.

Khovaev added that the Philippines and Russia “deserve to know each other much, much better.”

He also said that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte impressed Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a meeting in Laos last month, and that Moscow supports the leader’s fight against illegal drugs and criminality.

For its part, the Philippines’ budget minister announced that his country is open to all forms of assistance, but will choose what is in the “best interest of the country,” Reuters reported.

‘Troubling rhetoric’ 

Meanwhile, relations between Duterte and the US aren’t quite as rosy. The Philippines leader announced it was “time to say goodbye” to Washington on Thursday, including to military and economic cooperation. 

However, the Philippines’ trade minister, Ramon Lopez, told CNN on Friday that the leader “wasn’t talking about separation” from the United States.

Although Duterte explicitly stated that the Philippines would be separating from the US economically, Lopez said that “in terms of economic [ties], we are not stopping trade, investment with America. The president specifically mentioned his desire to strengthen further the ties with China and the ASEAN region, which we have been trading with for centuries.”

He explained that the Philippines was just “breaking being too much dependent on one side…but we definitely won’t stop the trade and investment activities with the West, specifically the US.”

The US embassy in the Philippines called Duterte’s remarks “troubling rhetoric” prior to Lopez’s conciliating remarks.

“We’ve seen a lot of this sort of troubling rhetoric recently, which is inexplicably at odds with the warm relationship that exists between the Filipino and American people and the record of important cooperation between our two governments,” the US embassy press attaché in Manila, Molly Koscina, told Reuters on Friday.

“We have yet to hear from the Philippine government what Duterte’s remarks on ‘separation’ might mean, but it is creating unnecessary uncertainty,” she added.

Koscina also said that the US would honor its alliance commitments and treaty obligations with Manila, and expects the Philippines to do the same.

Despite 65 years of close partnership, relations between the US and the Philippines have soured in recent months over Duterte’s controversial “war on drugs,” which has led to the death of at least 3,600 people since May.

Duterte criticized US President Barack Obama’s “arrogance” earlier this month, as he announced a trip to China – a historic rival of the Philippines – to discuss partnership projects. It was from China that he would later announce the separation from the US.

In September, after hearing news that the US president was to address the Philippines’ war on drugs, Duterte called Obama a “son of a b**ch/whore.” He later said the insult had not been directed towards Obama, but that didn’t stop the White House from canceling talks scheduled between the two leaders.

Despite criticism from the US, the European Union, and the UN, Duterte – who came to office in May on a promise to wipe out drugs and dealers – has vowed to continue his anti-drug campaign until the end of his term, shrugging off accusations that human rights are being violated in the process.