Duterte kicks off second visit to Russia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 2) — President Rodrigo Duterte and his official delegation arrived in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday morning (Philippine time) for a five-day official visit that aims to strengthen ties with Moscow while valuing relations with long-time ally, the United States.

Duterte was invited by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who the Philippine leader had earlier referred to as his "idol." The two leaders will hold another round of bilateral meetings 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. Duterte will also meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

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.

The President is also expected to conduct a lecture at the Moscow State Institute of International Relation — a university which trains Russian diplomats. Students from other Russian universities are also expected to listen to Duterte's lecture on conducting bilateral relations.

His scheduled talk at the institute in May 2017 did not push through as he had to rush home because Islamic State-linked militants laid seige on Marawi City.

Duterte will also head to Sochi, where he was invited to speak before the Valdai Discussion Club. The DFA said it was the first time for the think tank to invite a Philippine president.

In his departure speech, Duterte said the gathering "will be an opportune occasion to articulate, to a key audience, our independent Philippine foreign policy—one that is based on respect for sovereignty and non-interference, the time-honored principles of international law."

He said the visit "reaffirms the Philippines strong commitment to build a robust and comprehensive partnership with Russia" as global developments require an agile foreign policy.

"While it is true that we value our long-standing partners, we must also be open to engage new ones,” the President added.

A business forum would also be staged with top Russian business leaders to encourage them to invest in the Philippines.

Duterte will cap his second trip to Russia with a gathering with the Filipino community there. The DFA said some 6,900 Filipinos are in Russia, mostly employed as household laborers while some work in the energy sector.