2021 marks the 45th Anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-Russia Diplomatic Relations. To commemorate this milestone, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the Philippines and the MGIMO University of Russia held an online conference last 25 May where achievements and prospects in the two countries’ diplomatic relations were discussed.

Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Elizabeth P. Buensuceso and Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Igor Morgulov kicked off the conference’s meaningful discussions by identifying milestones in the long history of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Philippine representatives at the conference expressed gratitude to the Russian Federation for the supply of Sputnik V vaccines to the Philippines. DFA Undersecretary Buensuceso also shared that the “Philippines is interested in cooperating with Russia in localizing vaccine manufacturing” and the opportunity for “joint cooperation projects for producing vaccines for other viral diseases in the future.” The Philippines’ interest to collaborate on space cooperation was also mentioned with the establishment of the Philippine Space Agency in 2019 and the expertise of Russia in space exploration.

The distinguished conference speakers emphasized the “dramatic reinvigoration in Russia-Philippines diplomatic relations” under the two countries’ current leaders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as common grounds paved the way for more intimate interactions, cooperation, and agreements. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov identified Russian interests which are similar with the Philippines’: establishing fair and more democratic system of international relations; ensuring security in Southeast Asia; fighting terrorism and transnational crimes; fighting drug-trafficking; supporting ASEAN-centrality, and most importantly, fighting the current global pandemic, COVID-19. 

The conference speakers provided insights on the following themes: (a) Diplomatic Relations: Achievements and Prospects, (b) Political and Security Cooperation, (c) Trade and Economic Cooperation, (d) Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation, and (e) Cultural and People-to-People Cooperation.

His Excellency Carlos Sorreta, Philippine Ambassador to the Russian Federation, noted Russia’s policy of respect for non-interference in international affairs and how it contributes to regional security. He also cited how Russia’s attitude towards the Philippines’ military procurement “carries no political baggage or conditionalities,” and is built upon trust that the Philippines will comply with international laws. His Excellency Marat Pavlov, Russian Federation Ambassador to the Philippines, on the other hand, focused on the crucial elements of security, such as energy resources, food security, and health security. 

Assistant Secretary for Industry Development and Trade Policy Group of the Philippines Atty. Allan B. Gepty and Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Director Dr. Natalia Stapran talked about how the establishment of the Philippines-Russia Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation (JCTEC) opened more opportunities for cooperation as the Philippine and Russian products are now more accessible in the two countries’ respective mainstream markets. The two countries recognized the opportunities to further boost the exchange of products and to address the trade imbalance. Possible areas of cooperation included pharmaceuticals, ship building, hydroponic crops, energy, nuclear science and technology, and the possible linkage of ASEAN and the larger Eurasian Economic Union.

Philippine lawmaker, District Representative Alan Peter Cayetano, stressed that while the pandemic indeed interrupted many activities, it also presented new opportunities for cooperation, such as virtual meetings and discussions among parliamentarians to further develop mutual cooperation. He proposed areas for further cooperation and emphasized the importance of nurturing the youth through student exchanges. Meanwhile, the Head of the Philippines-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Group Ludmila Talabaeva enumerated a number of international political and economic organizations, and Friendship Groups in which the Philippines and Russia are both members, and where most cooperation are being coursed through. She also emphasized Russia’s readiness to increase cooperation in high-tech and innovative industries.

FSI Director-General Jose Maria A. Cariño talked about the various cultural influences of Russia in the Philippines, while FSI’s Senior Research Specialist Edwin Estrada elaborated how the Philippines and Russia’s friendship was rooted in the countries’ mutual regard for building bridges through culture, and that people-to-people exchanges led the way to formal relations between the two countries. 

Director-General Cariño said that the Institute already offered a Russian language course to DFA personnel, as discussed with His Excellency Marat Pavlov. This is to further promote the Russian language not only to improve the Russian language capabilities of DFA and FSI personnel and Philippine diplomats, but also as a long-term and strategic approach of deepening cultural and people-to-people cooperation between Philippines and Russia.

On behalf of MGIMO University Rector Anatoly Torkunov, Vice-Rector Andrey Baykov discussed the Philippines’ cultural diversity’s unlimited opportunities for people-to-people exchanges. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, MGIMO University, together with the ASEAN Centre, continues to promote its relations with Filipino partners in creative ways using digital technology.

The Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation to the Philippines, Consul Armi Lopez Garcia and MGIMO University Vice-Rector Andrey Baykov concluded the conference by recalling how the Philippine-Russian relations has evolved through time and the way cultural initiatives paved the way for better trade, economic, political, security, and diplomatic cooperation between the two countries. 

Luningning G. Camoying, the Philippines’ Deputy Chief of Presidential Protocol in charge of Substantive Matters and Acting Director Dr. Ekaterina Koldunova, ASEAN Centre in MGIMO University, moderated the conference. Distinguished guests from DFA, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and members of prominent departments, institutions, and think tanks from the Philippines and Russia were invited to virtually witness the event

The conference was a remarkable cooperation between FSI and MGIMO University as both institutions focus on the development of international competencies and academic diplomacy, strengthening of foreign policy, and enhancement of bilateral and multilateral contacts. The two institutions worked hand-in-hand to bring together high-level officials, diplomats, and experts directly involved in promoting Philippines-Russia relations.

The online conference has brought about a new partnership between MGIMO University and FSI which hopefully opens doors for more opportunities of cooperation, especially in the field of academic exchanges, diplomatic training, and research.

It was a meaningful online conference to commemorate the 45th year of the establishment of Philippines-Russia diplomatic relations.