MANILA, Philippines – With Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte seeking closer ties with Russia, British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad emphasized Russia's role in conflicts around the world, the effects of which have also reached Philippine shores.
"If you check the history books, you'll see Afghanistan was invaded by Russia, and al-Qaeda was born out of that conflict, and the consequences of that have gone global, including here in the Philippines," Ahmad said at the Pandesal Forum in Quezon City on Wednesday, November 23.
Al-Qaeda is the terror group created and once led by Osama bin Laden, who was killed in May 2011.
It is known to have funded the Abu Sayyaf terror group in the Philippines. The Abu Sayyaf is blamed for many of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country, including the 2004 firebombing of a ferry on Manila Bay that claimed more than 100 lives.
Ahmad continued, "So what was spawned by Russian intervention in Afghanistan, we're paying the price for it today in Mindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Manila, when the ferry was blown up in the early part of the 2000s."
'Fact-check,' envoy says
Without specifying where this was discussed, the ambassador also said he "heard President Duterte very, very specifically talk about the bombings in Syria."
"Well please, fact-check," Ahmad said. "The bombings in Aleppo are entirely Russian."
The ambassador explained, "What I'm saying is that you cannot cherrypick the positive attributes of a country and ignore the rest."
Ahmad made these comments after a forum panelist asked him about Duterte fostering closer ties with Russia.
Duterte has said he will be first to join a "new world order" dominated by Russia and China.
On the other hand, the former long-time Davao City mayor wants to move away from the Philippines' traditional ally, the US, as he cites America's supposed hypocrisy in criticizing him over human rights.
On Wednesday, Ahmad urged the Philippines: "By all means, engage with all the great powers of the world, and your neighbors, and the like, but one has to be objective in setting up the terms under which these relations are undertaken." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.