Philippines-Russia relations

PH lawmakers give Congressional Medal of Achievement to Russia envoy

Mara Cepeda
PH lawmakers give Congressional Medal of Achievement to Russia envoy

Philippine House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (L) sits beside Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev during the plenary session on October 2, 2020. Screenshot from the House of Representatives' Youtube account

Filipino legislators praise Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev for playing a 'material role' in the turnaround in 'cold relations' between the Philippines and Russia

The Philippine House of Representatives gave a rockstar send-off to outgoing Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev by giving him the Congressional Medal of Achievement. 

On Friday, October 2, lawmakers adopted House Resolution (HR) No. 1265, which praised Khovaev for fostering strong bilateral ties between the Philippines and Russia.

The same resolution formally conferred upon Khovaev the Congressional Medal of Achievement, which was created to allow the House to honor political, economic, and cultural leaders who have distinguished themselves in their line of work. 

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano escorted Khovaev inside the plenary hall on Friday. Lawmakers then applauded the Russian ambassador as he made his way toward the Speaker’s rostrum to receive his medal. 

Cayetano himself authored HR 1265 along with 11 other legislators, most of whom hold key House posts. They are as follows: 

  • Taguig City-Pateros 2nd District Representative Lani Cayetano, the Speaker’s wife
  • House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Leyte 1st District
  • House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr, Manila 6th District
  • Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Camarines Sur 2nd District 
  • Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, Batangas 2nd District
  • Deputy Speaker Dan Fernandez, Laguna 1st District
  • House committee on accounts chair Abraham Tolentino, Cavite 8th District
  • House committee on good government and public accountability chair Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Bulacan 1st District
  • House committee on foreign affairs chair Ann Hofer, Zamboanga Sibugay 2nd District
  • House committee on inter-parliamentary relations and diplomacy chair Divina Grace Yu, Zamboanga del Sur 1st District
  • Samantha Louis Vargas Alfonso, Cagayan 2nd District

In their resolution, the Filipino lawmakers credited Khovaev for the increase in trade relations, investments, and flow of tourists between the Philippines and Russia.

They praised Khovaev for “incessantly” supporting Philippine education by helping increase scholarship opportunities for Filipino students in Russian universities. 

The Philippine legislators also said Khovaev’s “effective efforts” led to Russia offering to provide the Philippines with supplies of the coronavirus vaccine that the European superpower is currently developing. 

Philippine officials are eyeing to participate in Phase 3 clinical trials for Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine within this month.

HR 1265 then cited Russia for offering its military capabilities and technology to help boost the Philippines’ national defense in the disputed South China Sea

“In the performance of his duties as Russian Ambassador, His Excellency Khovaev has played a material role in the turnaround from the previously cold relations between the two countries to the presently significant Philippines-Russia bond,” read HR 1265.

PH-Russia relations

That the Speaker co-authored the resolution honoring Khovaev is not surprising. 

Cayetano was formerly the foreign affairs chief of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who sought to broaden the country’s erstwhile minimal relations with Russia. (READ: Duterte trumpets ‘remarkable progress’ of PH-Russia ties in Putin meeting)

Early in his term, Duterte broached forging an “independent foreign policy” that appears to have largely meant distancing from the United States, a traditional ally, and drawing closer to US rivals like Russia and China.

Now, Russia is looking to supply the Philippines with weapons and military assets such as helicopters and submarines. In October 2019, Khovaev said the Philippines could buy “as much as they wanted” at “very competitive prices.”

Still, it is not unusual for the House leadership to honor a foreign ambassador to the Philippine, as this has been done in the past. 

In 2016, then House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez gave the Golden Mace Award to United States Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

Three years later, the chamber gave the Congressional Medal of Achievement to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua under the term of Alvarez’s successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.