In deference to the Philippines’ neutral position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Marat Ignatyevich Pavlov said on March 21 he expects bilateral cooperation with the Philippines to continue amid growing global sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

“We have many fields of cooperation, so we hope the Philippine side will continue to cooperate with us and interact with us in different fields and it will be considered an act of our friendship,” Pavlov told a forum.

President Duterte last week called Russian President Vladimir Putin his personal friend, vowing to stay neutral on the Russia-Ukraine war.

He said he would not send a single Filipino soldier to war because it is “not our battle to fight.” Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana also announced that the Philippine’s procurement of Sikorsky helicopters from Russia would push through.

Pavlov called Duterte’s pronouncement of neutrality a “wise position” because both nations have been showing “an equal, fair and mutually beneficial interaction in many fields.”

“The economic cooperation between the two countries has been steadily growing,” he said, noting that bilateral trade hit $1.2 billion in 2019 from just $486 million in 2010.
“Russia is ready to satisfy the Philippine side’s demand for fuel and food supplies,” including pork and fish, he added.

Pavlov also said Russian companies are interested in building power plants in the Philippines as well as in energy, oil and gas exploration projections.

He also found promising a potential cooperation on the development of nuclear energy. The Philippines, he added, has confirmed its readiness to conduct a feasibility study to install nuclear power facilities in the country.

“Our bilateral trade and economic relations have a great potential for further development,” Pavlov said.

Russia has released a list of 48 “unfriendly” countries and territories whose corporate deals would now need government approval after they joined a global drive to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

“It’s easier to pull down than to build,” Pavlov said, calling the response of the West “hysterical and out of proportion.”

“The goal of the sanctions is much more strategic than just Ukraine,” he said. “We are witnessing in Ukraine the acquiescence of the western course — a strategic course to marginalize Russia, to contain Russia, to stop Russian development and to reduce Russia to zero growth,” he added.

Lately, however, Duterte showed signs of taking side with the US against Russia if the shooting war in Ukraine extends to Asia because of China and its hardline pro-Russia stand.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez earlier said Duterte has offered the US temporary use of Subic Bay and Clark Air Base if the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict spills over to Asia.

Romualdez seemed determined to honor the country’s commitment under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty if the situation warrants it.

The MDT signed in 1951 commits both countries to come to each other’s aid in case of foreign aggression or armed attack on its troops, ships and aircraft.