Press Briefing

Pre-departure briefing of Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Ma. Amelita C. Aquino and Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s visit to Russia

Event Pre-departure Briefing
Location New Executive Building, Malacañan Palace, Manila


ASEC. AQUINO: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, our friends from the media.

I am pleased to give you a briefing on the President’s visit to Russia.

Upon the invitation of President Vladimir Putin for President Rodrigo Duterte to participate in the Forum of the Valdai Discussion Club or I will later on — call it as Valdai Forum for short — the President will make a visit to Russia on 1-5 October 2019.

He will visit the cities of Sochi and Moscow. This will be the second visit of the President to Russia. As you may recall, the President’s official visit to Russia in May 2017 was cut short due to the developments in Marawi. Short though that visit was, it provided the momentum for stronger and more engagements between the Philippines and Russia.

In Sochi, the President along with President Putin and other invited leaders will speak during the Plenary Session of the Valdai Forum on 03 October. The theme is “The World Order Seen From the East”.

The Valdai Discussion Club is one of Russia’s prominent and respected think tanks and discussion groups. It organizes annually the Valdai Forum where top Russian and international officials as well as policymakers, academics and journalists are invited.

Of course, the highlight of the trip will be the President’s bilateral meeting with President Putin where they will discuss the state of our bilateral relations and how both sides can further enhance and expand our cooperation in various areas. They will also exchange views on regional and global developments and other issues.

This will be the fourth meeting of the two Presidents. If you will recall, they first met in November 2016 at the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Peru, and after the visit to Russia in May 27, they met again in November 27 at the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.

President Duterte and President Putin will also witness the exchange of several bilateral agreements covering practical areas of cooperation such as culture, health, basic research, et cetera.

In Moscow, the President will attend Philippines-Russia Business Forum to promote the trade and investment opportunities between our two countries. It will also serve as a venue for networking between Russian and Filipino businessmen.

Aside from the visit, the trip will also have a cultural component. The Bayanihan Dance Company and the Philippine Madrigal Singers will showcase before Russian audiences as well as other guests the richness of Philippine culture through our dances and music.

Another activity of the President in Moscow is a brief lecture at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. It is one of the most prestigious and leading institutions in Russia in the area of diplomacy and international affairs.

Of course, the President’s visit to Russia will not be complete if he did not meet with the Filipino community there who I understand has been really, really looking forward to the President’s visit and to meeting him.

This meeting with the Filipino community will cap his visit to Russia.

Thank you for your attention.


Pia Gutierrez (ABS-CBN): Ma’am, could you tell us more about the international forum that the President is set to attend in Sochi?

ASEC. AQUINO: The Valdai Forum is a — it’s — the Valdai Discussion Club is one of the most prominent think tanks and international discussion clubs in Russia. And they have invited several guests from different countries and I understand that this will also be the first time that they will be inviting leaders to address the Plenary Session.

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: If I may add, it’s the first time that a Philippine president has been invited to such a forum. And it’s also the first time that the Valdai Forum has decided to invite more than one leader to the forum.

Our understanding is that there will be four or five leaders who were invited to speak during this forum. We’re not at liberty to say. It’s for Valdai to announce.

Thank you.

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star): Good morning, what will be the President’s — the contents of the President’s speech or presentation in this forum, if ever? Can you please reveal it now?

ASEC. AQUINO: Actually, they were — the leaders were asked to — they can talk of any subject related to the theme which is “The World Order Seen From the East.”

Although the President’s speech, I don’t want to preempt what he will say because it’s… We did submit our inputs but the final I think it will be up to the President to give his views on the topic. But I don’t want to really go into the details because I don’t want to preempt him.

Ms. Mendez: Iyon po bang government’s campaign against illegal drugs, his concerns about terrorism and issues about the West Philippine Sea will be — are part of the subjects or topics you submitted to the President?


Ms. Mendez: At least general topics or subjects po kung pwede lang.

ASEC. AQUINO: Ang ano kasi ho we give our inputs but the final text is being — it’s the Office of the President that does the final text so I don’t want to speculate what the President will say or will not say.

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: If I may, ma’am, I think it’s important to note that given the theme “World Order Seen from the East” this will be the takeoff point for the President’s speech.

So he is expected to give his perspective or vision of the world order as it is emerging right now and how this relates to Philippine foreign policy. Of course, we can surmise that the President will include in his statement and explanation of his independent foreign policy.

And since he will be talking to specific groups particularly intellectuals, academicians, journalists from Russia, then he is expected to also provide an overview of how important Philippines-Russia relations are at this point. Thank you.

Rosalie Coz (UNTV): Good morning po, Asec. Can you provide us more details about the bilateral agreements to be signed between the two governments because I think there are also reports regarding labor agreements but it was not mentioned earlier?

ASEC. AQUINO: I don’t really want at this point to go into the details of the agreements because some of the agreements are still being negotiated and vetted.

I have mentioned health, culture, basic research. But the other agreements, I’m not at liberty at this point since there are still discussions going on.

Ms. Coz: Pero do we have target about labor agreements to be signed?

ASEC. AQUINO: It has always been our aim to have an agreement that will provide the legal framework for our Filipinos in Russia.

So whether as I said it’s still under negotiation but we do want to have an agreement that will give a legal framework for their stay in Russia.

But I’m not at liberty to say at this point whether there will be an agreement or not because it’s still — there are still discussions going on.

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: Thank you, Asec. Again, it’s important to note that negotiations are ongoing.

And as to what these agreements are going to be, they are going to be announced in due course and you will be informed accordingly, of course.

Thank you.

Ms. Coz: May we know din po the updated number of Filipino workers working in Russia? Number of Filipinos working in Russia?

ASEC. AQUINO: There are around 6,900 Filipinos, almost 7,000.

Ms. Coz: And the President will be meeting around how many in his FilCom Meeting po? Do we have targets?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: There is a target but he will meet with as many Filipinos as he can. Given the numbers ‘no we — given the numbers, it’s important to also know that this is 7,000 all across Russia, and it’s a very, very big country.

So we want as many Filipinos to be there. As to the target, we don’t have that yet but we want to maximize the time of the President para makadaupang-palad niya po ang mga Pilipino na nandodoon sa Moscow.

Ms. Coz: He’ll be meeting them on the third day of the visit, sir?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: He’s going to meet them on the 5th.

Ms. Coz: October 5?


Ms. Coz: Thank you, sir.

Ina Andolong (CNN Philippines): Good morning. As Mr. Borje said earlier, this is the first time that a Philippine president is invited to the Valdai Forum. Did the organizing committee mention their specific reason why they’re interested in having the Philippine President there today? Why they thought it was about time to invite our President for the first time

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: Thank you. I don’t presume to speak for and in behalf of Valdai Forum.

Ms. Andolong: [inaudible]

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: No. But what they said was they welcome and they are very excited about the participation of the President.

Again, they stressed this was the first time that a Philippine president has been invited to address the forum.

Ms. Andolong: Are there plans also to secure weapons from the Russian government similar to what the President did when he first visited Russia?

ASEC. AQUINO: I’m not at liberty to say that because it’s under the remit of the Department of National Defense. And I think we defer to them in things as sensitive as what you are asking us.

Ms. Gutierrez: Ma’am, ano po ‘yung profile ng mga Filipinos living in Russia?

ASEC. AQUINO: Karamihan doon sa mga Filipinos doon, most are women and household service workers. Majority of the Filipinos are in the service sector.

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: But we also have, I understand ma’am, Filipinos in the energy industry. Mga workers in the energy industry.

Joyce Balancio (DZMM Teleradyo): Kahit po wala naman details doon sa agreements, at least may target number ba tayo, range, how many agreements are we expecting to be signed?

ASEC. AQUINO: I think we are not targeting a number because it’s actually the quality and what we get from the agreements. You can have one or two agreements but it is something that will really be useful for us.

You can have 10 agreements that might not mean anything. So we’re not really targeting but we’re looking at the agreements that we need and that we can get cooperation from Russia.

Ms. Balancio: At least a range lang po? More than 10 agreements are we expecting? Less than 10?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: Again, I don’t think it’s the number that’s significant as what — as the Assistant Secretary said.

Let me reiterate, it’s the quality of the agreements. And at this point, I think she already emphasized the general areas of agreements. So I think that will suffice at this point.

Dona Pazzibugan (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Good morning sir, ma’am. May we know who are the — who are included in the delegation?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: Thank you, ma’am. It’s — the official delegation is actually being finalized because we are also negotiating for other meetings with the President.

But at this point, we can of course say that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs will be there, the Secretary of Finance, Secretary of Trade and Industry, the Secretary of National Defense.

And again, depending on the agreements that will be signed, the corresponding secretary whose — who handles that portfolio will also be included in the delegation.

Ms. Pazzibugan: How about non-government members of the delegation? Sir, do we expect — how many non-government members of the delegation?


Ms. Pazzibugan: Business or…

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: That’s under the Department of Trade and Industry. But I understand from them, and again I don’t — I don’t know the full details, it’s going to be a significant number of Filipino businessmen — business leaders rather, joining the Philippines-Russia Business Forum.

Ms. Mendez: Sir, how about members of the first family?


Ms. Mendez: Not even Ms. Honeylet?


Ms. Gutierrez: Speaking of the Business Forum, what type of investments are we expecting to get?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: Thank you. I think we should have invited the Department of Trade and Industry here. That’s — that question should be addressed to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Ms. Gutierrez: Ma’am, you said that this is the second time, naudlot ‘yung first time. Just curious, meron bang mga activities siya nung — na hindi niya nagawa nung first visit niya na itutuloy niya this time around?

ASEC. AQUINO: I think he was not able to meet the Filipino community, I think the first time he was there. That’s why the Filipinos are so — are so excited. And I think he was supposed to give a lecture at the Moscow State of International Relations.

Ms. Gutierrez: Is that in the schedule this time?

ASEC. AQUINO: It’s in the schedule, yes.

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: As a way of background lang ‘no, during the first visit of the President, the Philippine delegation — the Philippine government made sure that for that particular visit, the substance of the official visit was attended to.

So all of the agreements that were confirmed at that time were signed and they were exchanged as well. It was Secretary of — then Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano who handled that. So when it came to substance of that particular visit, we were able to complete all of that.

So at this point, there’s another opportunity for the President to visit so he of course is going to take the opportunity to visit and meet members of the Filipino community.

And again MGIMO, the premier institute of Russia for international relations is in his schedule and he will address the members of that community. Thank you.

Joseph Morong (GMA-7): On behalf of Sandra who’s going. So the President will have two speaking engagements ‘no? The one in the Valdai and the Moscow Institute — what’s the name again?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: Moscow State Institute of International Relations, MGIMO.

Mr. Morong: So this will be when?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: This will be on the 5th or the 4th. It’s on the 5th —

Mr. Morong: Oh, that’s a busy day.


Mr. Morong: So FilCom and then the address? All right, so background of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations? What’s the background of this organization?

ASEC. AQUINO: It’s a — it’s actually a university that trains the future diplomats of Moscow. And it’s one of the most — when it comes to the area of diplomacy and international relations, it’s one of the leading institutions in Russia.

Mr. Morong: So ma’am, siyempre hindi niyo pa pwedeng masabi ‘yung parang subject matter of the speech of the President ‘no? At least as far as this one is concerned?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: To compare the two ‘no, the Valdai Discussion Club Plenary Session has set the theme, “World Order Seen from the East.”

So the address of the President will be in general terms. General ‘yung approach niya. It’s how he sees the world order and basically the relations between states as seen from the Philippine perspective.

We don’t have any indication yet of who the other leaders are going to be. But I think that’s the — the import of inviting different leaders. That’s how Valdai saw that.

You contrast that with MGIMO, it’s going to be a more bilateral take on relations because he’s going to address members of the academe that are working on bilateral relations.

And then it’s also expected that we have other students from other universities interested in Philippines-Russia relations.

In fact, when we went there before, we were met by Russian students who spoke fluent Filipino and they said again that they are excited to listen to the President and hear his thoughts about Philippines-Russia relations.

Mr. Morong: Ito pong talk niya sa Moscow State, meron ba ‘yang — ang format ba niyan, ma’am, is the audience will be able to ask the President or he speak and then that’s it?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: He will speak there — I think there’s an opportunity to ask questions. But again, it’s dependent on the time as well because it’s also a busy day. So we’ll know when we — when we get there.

Mr. Morong: All right. Thank you.

Ms. Gutierrez: Sir, every time we ask the President or the Palace kung bakit ayaw niya pumunta sa US despite an invitation from the President is because ayaw niya ng malamig. Pero I understand malamig ngayon sa Russia. So it seems that weather is not a factor for President Duterte to decide which country to visit. Tama po ba?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: I think you are again extrapolating. If you also check your — your weather projections, I think Sochi is actually a little bit warm at this time of the year.

And again, the President is entitled to exercise his decision on which visits are he is going to undertake.

Ms. Gutierrez: So weather, sir, is not a factor?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: I’m not saying that weather is not a factor. What we’re saying is that the President decides on the import of an outbound visit.

Ms. Gutierrez: And the President considers this as a very important visit, sir?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: I think all of the visits are important. Otherwise, he would not go.

Ms. Gutierrez: May we ask, sir, why the President’s still is not planning to visit the United States?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: I think you should ask the President or maybe you should ask the Spokesperson because this is a pre-departure briefing on the Moscow visit and not about the United States visit.

Ms. Gutierrez: All right. Thank you, sir.


Ms. Mendez: Kay Asec. Aquino, curious lang, ma’am, kung meron bang grants or exchange between Moscow Institute and DFA regarding seminars on international relations? Meron ba tayong relations with Moscow Institute? ‘Yung mga — mga diplomats natin.

ASEC. AQUINO: As far as I know, parang wala. Pero I think within — there’s a network of Diplomatic Institute na kasama ‘yung ating FSI.

I’m not sure if it’s the counterpart in Russia is the Moscow Institute of International Relations. Pero there are exchanges, there’s a network among the Diplomatic Institute, Russia, and ASEAN.

Ms. Mendez: Thank you.

Ms. Pazzibugan: Ma’am, can you give us an overview of Philippine-Russia relations trade and everything else?

ASEC. AQUINO: Actually, Philippines-Russia relations has been reinvigorated under the Duterte administration.

As I mentioned a while ago, even if the President’s first visit to Russia was cut short, that provided the momentum for — for deeper engagement with Russia in various areas: in the area of security, in the area of trade, in the area of culture, in the area of science and technology.

It’s a very, very broad-based relations. And in fact, even in terms of economics, while trade has increased almost 60 percent, now it’s 1.2 billion. From — from I think it was around 600 million last year. But the balance of trade is still in favor of Russia.

But with the engagements that we are doing with them, we have a Joint Commission on Economic — we have a platform for economic cooperation. Then we’re trying to — to gain more economic cooperation with Russia.

And in fact, we already have a trade, a commercial office in Russia as well as we opened also our defense — Office of the Defense Attaché in Russia.

So this is already an indication of our long-term commitment to really engage them in these two areas.

And in terms of culture, it’s also a very rich area for cooperation as well as in science and technology because our DOST have identified the areas that they would want to — the coope — areas of cooperation that they are interested in doing with Russia. So the relations are

really, really going — being intensified. And we have formal platforms.

We have consultation mechanisms with the Foreign Ministry, with Trade. There’s a cultural working group also.

So in the last three years, relations have — have really improved compared to the last 40 years that… For the last 40 years, it was not moving. It was like stag — I don’t want… Maybe… I don’t know if that’s the right word.

But in the last three years, you will — you will see, I don’t know, people who will be joining the delegation, how busy the post is because there’s a lot of interaction. There are — there have been port — exchanges of port calls.

For the first time, the Philippines —


ASEC. AQUINO: — Navy, the Tar — MV Tarlac, that’s the first time that they made a port call in Russia.

And there have been a lot of visits also between our… Department of Agriculture also is one area of — with very good potential for the Philippines.

It’s really broad, a broad-based. Every — it’s defense, culture, agriculture, economic, people-to-people exchanges also —


ASEC. AQUINO: — we are also encouraging learning of the Russian language. And as somebody mentioned also, exchanges among — among diplomats. Maybe that’s an area that’s also very interesting and has a lot of potential.

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: I think it’s — if I may add lang, sir. I think it’s — it shows ‘yung significant development and growth in terms of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Russia.

And the point of this visit would be to identify key areas of practical cooperation because I think there have — the framework is already there. But practical cooperation is the area to go so that we can really feel the benefits of the bilateral relations.

And again, the Assistant Secretary has informed us, advised us about the different areas of practical cooperation that’s going to happen.

I just wanted to add, ma’am, I think one important area too is to increase market access of Filipino products — Philippine products to Russia.

Mr. Morong: Sir, naalala ko lang, ah ma’am. Totoo ba ‘yung ano, visa-free na ‘yung mga Filipinos sa Russia if they want to visit Saint Petersburg and Leningrad? Can you provide the mechanics?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: I think that was on Facebook ‘no. We don’t provide the mechanics. It has to be…

Mr. Morong: She’s from DFA?


ASEC. AQUINO: No, that’s the Russian — the Russian…

Mr. Morong: But would you confirm that there is such a thing?


ASEC. AQUINO: We will — maybe we will confirm. But I think that’s — it’s already in the Russian Embassy.

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: If it’s — it’s the Russian Embassy that will confirm that.

ASEC. AQUINO: It’s the Russian Embassy — it’s in their Facebook so I guess it’s…

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: Let’s have the Russian Embassy confirm.

ASEC. AQUINO: But we — but we have not received… At least the Office of European Affairs, we have not received any advice.

Perhaps our office we can check with their Office of Consular Affairs regarding the e-visa.

Mr. Morong: Hindi natin — I mean hindi po natin alam ‘yung ganon ng Russia?

ASEC. AQUINO: The e-visa.

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: I think what ma’am is trying to say is that if you want, please confirm with Russia because it’s not for the Philippine government to confirm what the Russian government has done.

Mr. Morong: Hindi ba natin dapat malaman din ‘yon?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: They should know. But what we’re telling you is that confirmation will be from the Russian Embassy.

Mr. Morong: Coz I’m going to ask the mechanics for Filipinos who want to probably go?

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: You will have to ask the Russian Embassy.

Mr. Morong: I’m addressing Asec. Aquino.

ASEC. AQUINO: It will have to be the Russian Embassy because the visa is a function of the country where you are going.

Sila ho ang magbibigay ng visa, so sila ho ang magbibigay ng mechanics. Kasi hindi ho ba…

Mr. Morong: So pagka ganun ma’am hindi natin alam ‘yon — ?


Mr. Morong: Hindi po natin nalalaman ‘yon ‘yung ginagawa ng ibang bansa about visa? I mean for example, he’s a Filipino…

ASEC. AQUINO: Usually they will inform — they will send us an official notification and perhaps it will be sent to our Office of Consular Affairs so that our Office of Consular Affairs will then inform our relevant government agencies, I guess like BI, so that Filipinos that will be having that visa when they go out, aware sila.

Mr. Morong: Correct. That’s exactly why I’m asking.

ASEC. AQUINO: At least for European Affairs, we have not received the notification. Perhaps they sent it through our Office of Consular Affairs so that other government agencies can be informed.

Mr. Morong: So, so far, from your end, no notification?

ASEC. AQUINO: From our end sa European, I haven’t seen that officially transmitted to us.

Mr. Morong: Because as you said, they would have — we would have to inform our relevant agencies?

ASEC. AQUINO: Yes, yes…

Mr. Morong: That is why I’m asking.

ASEC. AQUINO: Yes, especially BI, kasi kung nasanay ‘yung BI na ‘yung — ‘yung dating visa and then there’s a new type of visa. Governments usually inform the relevant agencies so that there would be no problem when people go out and depart.

Mr. Morong: Hence the question, Asec. Borje.


Kristina Maralit (Daily Tribune): Yes ma’am, good morning. In relation po dun sa earlier question ni Joseph. Kasi may lumabas nga po na balita na starting October 1st, Russia will be handing ‘yung parang e-visas to foreigners but within only Saint Petersburg and Leningrad. The question po, posible po kaya na pagpunta ni Presidente sa Russia ma-tackle din po ito? Because as you said earlier, the Philippines and Russia relationship has been reinvigorated under President Duterte para po mas ma-enhance pa ‘yung like ‘yung people-to-people exchanges and other areas of cooperation. When it comes to the visa thing, could it be possibly tackled po kaya sa visit ni Presidente sa Russia?

ASEC. AQUINO: Baka ma-preempt. Ah…

Ms. Maralit: Is it possible?


ASEC. AQUINO: Okay, sige, sige, baka…

CHIEF OF PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL BORJE: I think any — everything is in the realm of possibility naman. The framework is that both governments are trying to intensify people-to-people cooperation.

But as regards details on that, maybe that’s left best to the offices that are concerned kasi, of course, these are — President speaking eh. Normally when the President speak, they speak on policy issues not on technical issues.

The broad policy issue there is that there needs to be greater interaction between our peoples, greater exchange. The technical aspect would be granting of visas.

So that’s going to undergo its own processes.

Ms. Maralit: Thank you, sir.


— END —

SOURCE: PCOO-PND (Presidential News Desk)