MANILA, Philippines – Russian President Vladimir Putin himself invited President Rodrigo Duterte to visit Russia.
Putin made the invitation during their bilateral meeting in Lima, Peru on Saturday, November 20 (early Sunday morning, Manila time), according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Both presidents were in Peru to attend the 24th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting.
"The [Russian] President invited, of course, our President to visit," Esperon said in a press conference on Sunday.
Duterte is likely to accept the invitation, he added.
Malacañang sources have told Rappler that arrangements were already being made for the visit, even before the two presidents met. They are only waiting for the Russian government to determine a specific date.
Esperon and other Cabinet officials told reporters how the Duterte-Putin bilateral meeting went, a meeting which the Philippine President had said he was looking forward to.
Putin had apparently responded agreeably but safely to Duterte's mention of Western "hypocrisy." Duterte brought this up during the part of their meeting opened for media coverage.
"[Putin] said, 'Our assessments coincide in many respects,'" recalled Esperon, who added that the Russian President was speaking through an interpreter.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez also said Putin expressed appreciation for Duterte's firmness.
"May sinabi siya na maganda 'yung parang naging moves ni President Duterte na 'yung firm siya, iyong parang, may sinabing at least maganda 'yung ano niya, naging firm siya. At siguro, in a way, parang hindi na siya apihin, something like that," said Lopez.
(He said something good about how President Duterte's moves show he is being firm. And in a way, so that he is not taken advantage of, something like that.)
Before Duterte's expected trip, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr will also visit Russia on December 3 or the first week of December, said Esperon.
Previously, Duterte ordered defense officials to scout for Russian defense equipment that the Philippine government can purchase.
On the sidelines of the APEC Summit, Duterte had a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, aside from with Putin.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.