Russian PM welcomes Duterte to 'better White House'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 3) — President Rodrigo Duterte was welcomed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on Wednesday during his five-day official visit.

Duterte was accompanied by his official delegation when he held a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister and other officials in the House of Russian Government, their version of the "White House" of United States — Russia's old rival.

"I'm very glad again to welcome you here in Moscow in this building. We call this building sometimes "White House" but this is not the same White House as in that other country. It is Russian house of government. It's a little bit bigger than the White House that we all know. And better," he said in his opening statement.

Medvedev underscored the uphill development of ties between Russia and Philippines, saying the goal is to maintain the warm relationship.

"The development is positive over the last one and a half years. The trade turnover grows twice and it's good because you always are advocating the development of trade and economic relations with our country. And our task is to strengthen this trend," he said.

The prime minister said they will continue to work together on projects related to transport, energy, agriculture, and various humanitarian aspects.

Duterte also received a token from the top Russian official after the "successful" meeting, Malacañang said on Thursday.

This was their third meeting after the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos, in September 2016, and the 50th ASEAN Summit in Manila last November 2017.

After their meeting, the Philippine delegation flew to Sochi. They arrived early Thursday morning, Philippine time.

Unkempt Duterte?

Czech journalist Pavel Vondra noted that Duterte "showed up a bit unkempt" for the meeting and posted comments from Russian netizens criticizing the Philippine President's looks.

But Malacañang hit back, assuring the public that Duterte is "very hygienic" and that "his body emits a refreshing scent."

"PRRD does not look unkempt. What those kibitzers refer to is the way he wore his tie. He loosened it up. He feels suffocated and very uncomfortable if the tie is tightly in place in the collar," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

He added that Duterte's loose tie is not intended to disrespect Medvedev or the Russian people.

Duterte to meet Putin

Duterte is set to have bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he refers to as his "favorite hero", to mark their fourth encounter.

Malacañang said they are expected to discuss intensifying cooperation in areas of security and defense, combating terrorism and violent extremism, and addressing transnational crimes.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said some of the bilateral deals to be signed during the visit will cover culture, health, and research, while a labor agreement is also in the works.

Sochi is also the venue of the prestigious Forum of the Valdai International Discussion Club, or the Valdai Forum, where Duterte will articulate his views on Philippine perspectives of the current world order.

Malacañang said that Duterte will use his second visit to bolster Philippines-Russia cooperation in trade and economics, defense and military, health and science and technology, among others.