MANILA: President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte visited a Russian Navy anti-submarine vessel docked in Manila with an invitation to “come back more often” that also served as a signal in his determined bid to pursue an independent foreign policy from the country’s heavy reliance on the US, its long-time ally and partner in the region.
Duterte and other cabinet officials visited on Friday Admiral Teibuta where he was welcomed and given a tour of the warship by Rear Admiral Eduard Mickhailov, the deputy commander of the Flotilla of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet.
According to Radio-TV Malacanang, the Russians displayed their firepower to Duterte and the other officials during their tour including their witnessing a demonstration of the ship’s missile system.
At the Admiral Tributs ward room, Duterte signed the ship’s guestbook and wrote a short message for its commander a crew.
“Mabuhay kayo (Welcome). From the heart, I hope you come back more often,” Duterte wrote.
In addition, Duterte and his group also witnessed a demonstration by Russian divers and went up to the ship’s bridge where they got a briefing on its navigation system.
In Malacanang Palace, Secretary Ernesto Abella, the presidential spokesman, on Saturday pointed out that with the visit, Duterte aimed to broaden the “borders of support” the Philippines is getting from all of its allied countries.
Abella likewise stressed that Duterte aimed to end the mindset of past Philippine leaders to be “subservient” to a lone allied country, referring to the US, the country’s former colonial ruler and long-time economic and defense partner.
“In a sense, there was a break in our mentality that our source of security comes only from a particular country,” Abella said.
He added: “Perhaps our borders of support have already broadened or widened.”
Prior to the visit, Duterte met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sidelines of the recent summit of leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum hosted by Peru in its capital city of Lima.
The meeting with Putin also stood in sharp contrast to Duterte’s continued “snub” of outgoing US President Barack Obama who has sharply criticised the country’s intensive war on illegal drugs especially the alarming increase in extra-judicial killings blamed on vigilante groups.