Foreign affairs secretary: Duterte to visit Russia in 2017

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Details are being ironed out for President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to Moscow in March or April 2017, the Foreign Affairs Department said Tuesday.

Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. told CNN Philippines' "The Source" that he will fly to Russia on December 3 to begin preparations for President Duterte's visit, which comes at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"President Putin extended the invitation for the president to visit Russia, but it's a little bit too cold for the President to visit Russia at this time," Yasay said in the interview.

"But I will be going there to plan out the details, to make sure the meeting will happen within the near future," he added.

Yasay said he hopes Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana would be able to join him, as possible partnerships in defense may come up.

"Defense cooperation is very important in terms of exchange of information, the fight against terrorism, even in the war on drugs, our enforcement capability," said Yasay.

"These are areas that we can discuss and promote between the Philippines and Russia," he added.

However, he clarified that there will be no military alliances with Russia, a rival of the United States. The U.S. is a long-time ally of the Philippines.

"We only have one military alliance, and that is with the (U.S.)," Yasay said, reiterating the government's stand to honor defense agreements with Washington amid remarks by President Rodrigo Duterte threatening to cut ties with the U.S.

There was "no need" for arms deals too because "we do not intend to engage anyone in a war," the Foreign Secretary added.

"Perhaps we can consider looking (into) some arms in as much as the war on drugs, against terrorism is concerned, but to that extent only," he added.

Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev likewise said on Tuesday that no military alliance will occur.

However, he said Russia will assist the country in acquiring military weapons without any expectations of returns.

"I believe it's time for Filipinos to discover Russia and it's time for Russians to discover the Philippines," Khovaev said as he appealed to Filipinos to look beyond what he considered "aggressive" and "stupid" portrayals of Russians in Hollywood.

The newfound relationship with Russia is the latest development in a shift in foreign policy away from the West.

Putin extended the Moscow invitation to President Duterte at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in Peru earlier this month.

Look: Duterte arrives in Lima, Peru for APEC Leaders' Meeting

Duterte previously identified Putin as his "idol" and announced in a meeting in Beijing that he was "realigning" himself with Russia and China's "ideological flow." The proclamation, along with Duterte's biting criticism of U.S., rocked the boat on the 70-year-old alliance.

The administration has since maintained that it will honor partnerships with the U.S., but also shift its efforts to strengthening relations with Asian neighbors.

Yasay said that he spoke briefly with outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama during the APEC meeting.

Obama supposedly quipped that the relationship between the Philippines and the U.S. would strengthen under President-elect Donald Trump since he and Duterte "seem to have the same temperament."

Yasay however said that Philippine-American relations "transcend personalities" and reiterated that maintaining ties with them is within national interest.

Relations with China

At the APEC leaders' meeting, Duterte also met Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom he reportedly agreed to convert the disputed lagoon in Scarborough Shoal to a reserve, prohibiting those from both countries to fish there.

Related: Scarborough Shoal to be declared marine sanctuary

Relations with China have warmed under Duterte's administration after tension over disputed claims in West Philippine Sea. An international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines earlier this year, but China continued occupation among the islands, only recently allowing fishermen to enter the area.

When asked when tribunal ruling will be brought up, Yasay said, "We hope soon but there is also possibility that perhaps it may not happen in our lifetime."

Yasay said that they had previously approached talks with China within the context of the ruling, but "China insisted that they will not talk unless it is outside of that, so we decided to put this in the backburner."

"Without compromising, eroding our rights, we also recognized the fact that there is no implementing reinforcement arm with respect to the arbitral tribunal's decision except to insist and use force," said Yasay.

He added that they are also looking into multilateral discussions that will allow them to discuss the issue removed from the tribunal decision.

Yasay said that the conflict was not "the sum total" of Chinese-Filipino relations, which he enumerated to include trade, investment, commerce, infrastructure development, people to people contact, and cultural exchanges among others.

"These are very important and it would be really sad if because of the conflict in the South China Sea, which is a small portion of that relationship, we will not be able to foster a better relationship... that will mutually benefit (us)," said Yasay.

Correspondent JC Gotinga contributed to this report.