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11 January, 2017

Philippines-Russia close to an agreement on military drills

Russia and the Philippines are likely to sign an agreement in spring that would strengthen military cooperation between Moscow and Manila, the Philippine defense chief said on Monday. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Manila is finalizing the memorandum of agreement that is expected to be signed in April or May this year when President Rodrigo Duterte visits Russia.

"If we finish the nitty-gritty (of the agreement then it will be signed)," he said, adding the agreements would allow troops of both countries to conduct military drills, exchange personnel, observe military activities. Lorenzana said Moscow and Manila started hammering out the agreement in 2014 but was not finished. "It didn't progress so we are going to finish it," Lorenzana said, adding the agreement "is almost finish."

He said that when the agreement is signed then military personnel from both countries can observe military exercises, or send students to our schools and vice versa to gain military experience. "It's an exchange of visits," he said.

Lorenzana clarified that the agreement would just be a "military-to-military cooperation."

"It's not similar to the U.S. which is a treaty (like) the Mutual Defense Treaty which mandates them to help is in case we're attacked. We won't have that with Russia," Lorenzana said.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana said that a group of Russian military officers are due to visit the Philippines this month to discuss the type of weapons that the Philippine military plans to acquire from Russia. Last week, Russian anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Tributs and a large sea tanker Boris Butoma have docked in Manila for a goodwill visit. Duterte even spent almost an hour on board the Russian anti-submarine destroyers Admiral Tributs. "Hope you could come back more often. Long live!," Duterte said after the visit. The visit of the two Russian navy ships is the first during the administration of President Duterte who is forging a strong diplomatic alliance with Russia.

Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev told a news conference last week that Russia is "ready to supply small arms and light weapons, some airplanes, helicopters, submarines and many other weapons. Sophisticated weapons. Not the second-hand ones."

"Russia has a lot to offer but everything will be done in full compliance with international law," he said in a news conference aboard the Russian anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Tributs.

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