MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin has seen opportunities for Russia and the Philippines to improve their economic cooperation, as two-way trade between the two countries remains low.
In his bilateral meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Grand Kremlin Palace Tuesday evening (early Wednesday morning in Manila), Putin mentioned that despite more than 40 years of diplomatic ties between Russia and the Philippines, their “mutual trade exchanges are not too high”.
“We have very many promising and interesting areas of cooperation, including on energy machine building, transport and infrastructure,” the Russian leader told President Duterte.
“And I think we can cooperate in many different technical sphere.”
President Putin however noted that two-way trade jumped by 25 percent at the start of the year.
Data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) showed that in January to February 2017, bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to USD59.1 million.
Imports from Russia reached USD50.4 million while Philippine exports only amounted to USD8.7 million.
During their first meeting in Lima, Peru on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last year, President Putin committed to President Duterte that Russia will buy some USD2.5 billion worth of agriculture products from the Philippines.
Despite President Duterte’s early departure on Wednesday morning after declaring Martial Law in Mindanao, President Putin said the bilateral documents that are set to be signed by the Philippines and Russia will be pursued.
DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, who is also in Russia, said President Duterte has instructed him and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to continue with the planned official program that can be implemented at the ministerial level, including meetings with counterparts, and the signing of agreements.
“For DTI, we shall proceed with the meetings with Russian business groups and the business fora in Moscow and St. Petersburg that will be attended by delegates from the Russian business community and the Filipino business delegates,” Lopez said.
“We have to deliver the message that business will continue and isolated lawless violence like the one that happened in Marawi shall be quickly suppressed.”
Nearly 300 businessmen from the Philippines are here, in line with the official visit of the Philippine government, to explore opportunities with Russian counterparts.
The MVP Group and other big Philippine-based firms, as well as small and medium enterprises, are exploring business opportunities here.
In a separate text message to the Philippine News Agency, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President George Barcelon, who will attend the business fora in Russia, emphasized that the two countries’ push for closer ties is both good for trade and people-to-people relations.
Russian businessmen had their business mission in Manila prior to the visit of Filipino companies in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Moreover, the DTI chief stressed that the country’s economic growth will not be affected by the clash between a terrorist group and government troops in Marawi City, which led President Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.
“The economic breakout and the robust growth momentum of the country will not be affected. Economic growth that brings more jobs and income opportunities for the Filipinos, especially in the countryside, will continue,” Lopez said.