Philippines' Duterte Open to Russian Navy Joint Drill

Rodrigo Duterte
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while delivering a speech, Manila, Philippines, November 14. Romeo Ranoco/REUTERS

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is open to the possibility of running joint military drills with Russia, his spokesman said Thursday, days after the Russian navy sent two ships on a goodwill visit to the country's capital, Manila.

Duterte, who was elected last year on a heavily anti-drug platform, has become increasingly hostile towards the U.S. since taking office. He has also indicated he intends to pursue a tighter relationship with China and Russia.

Russia sent its Pacific Fleets deputy commander Eduard Mikhailov to Manila on Tuesday to strengthen defense ties between the two countries.

At a briefing in the presidential palace on Thursday, Duterte's spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said: "The goodwill visit by the Russian Navy will contribute to the strengthening of friendship with the Philippine Navy."

"It also is an indication that our maritime cooperation can further be enhanced to enable diplomacy and camaraderie."

Duterte is set to visit the Russian ships tomorrow, according to Abella, as he is currently in Davao.