Russia`s strategic benefits will not be as large as China`s, but nevertheless important. According to press reports, Russia and the Philippines are rapidly negotiating a bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of defense, which should provide a legal framework for joint exercises between the armed forces of the two countries. So far, military cooperation between Russia and the Philippines has been limited to naval stopovers. In early February, the Duterte government announced that it would terminate a visiting troop agreement signed with Washington in 1998, setting out the terms for joint exercises with U.S. troops in the Philippines. In the case of the defense deal that Lorenzana referred to this week, there are probably far fewer than we see at first glance. On 26 October 11, 2017, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian Minister of Defense, Mr. Shoigu, participated in the ceremony of handing over a batch of small arms trucks and trucks of the Russian army to the Philippine side of the port of Manila. The ceremony took place aboard the large Russian defense ship, Admiral Panteleyev. The day before, a military and technical cooperation agreement was signed between the Russian and Philippine governments. Alexander Mikheyev, CEO of Rosoboronexport, Russia, and Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana also signed a contract to supply the Philippines with RPG-7V grenade launchers and ammunition. Secondly, the volume of the agreement is quite limited, at least for the time being. Lorenzana said the agreement would allow for personnel exchanges, visits and observation of military exercises (unlike their execution).
Regarding the joint exercises in particular, he stressed that although Russia wants to conduct them with the Philippines, Manila still has to determine the «details of what is acceptable,» which would also constitute an inter-authority process involving the Foreign Ministry. Fourthly and finally, even if the agreement is finalised and we see that other forms of cooperation are beginning, let us not forget that the underlying dynamic that is driving increased cooperation between Manila and Moscow could also change further. As with his predecessors, Duterte may be forced to adjust his initial foreign policy balance or reverse the trend completely in response to regional developments. As I have already pointed out, although he has strong opinions, which he often expresses ideologically, he has also shown a pragmatic vein in his relations with the great powers, his latest praise of President-elect Donald Trump being a typical example despite his deep anti-Americanism (See: «Why Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines hates America»). According to Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana, the Southeast Asian country is currently studying the purchase of helicopter gunships, multi-purpose aircraft and warships from Russia. He even hinted at a possible purchase of kilo-class submarines that could be used to defend Philippine interests in the South China Sea. Like Vietnam and Malaysia, the Philippines is carefully examining large-scale purchases of advanced (relatively affordable) Russian weapons in order to contain external threats, particularly China. The main beneficiary of President Rodrigo Duterte`s decision to denounce the deal will be China. The VFA is the operating software for the 1951 U.S. Defense Contract for the Philippines, and without it, U.S.
military personnel cannot legally operate in the Philippines. A reduced U.S. military presence in the Philippines – no joint exercises, sea visits, and assistance in building the capabilities of the Philippine military – will give China much more freedom to assert its territorial and maritime jurisdiction in the Philippines` exclusive economic zone. . . .