President Rodrigo Duterte and the members of his delegation hold a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Polyana 1389 Hotel in Sochi on Oct. 3, 2019. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Russian leader Vladimir Putin welcome President Rodrigo Duterte to Sochi in Russia on Thursday and said the Philippines was now an important Russian partner in Asia.

“I would like to highlight that the Philippines is a very important partner of Russia in Asia. Our bilateral cooperation is constructive and mutually beneficial but our friendly relationships between our two countries,” Putin said in remarks during a bilateral meeting between Filipino and Russian officials at Polyana Hotel in Sochi.

Putin said Russia was willing to help the Philippines counter terrorism, noting that Duterte was able to reduce the threat level following the 2017 siege of Marawi City by Islamic State adherents. That attack cut short Duterte’s first trip to Moscow.

Since then, Putin said, trade has increased two-fold to $1.2 billion, as Russian exports grew four-fold.

“I would like to highlight your contribution into expanding the multifaceted cooperation between Russia and the Philippines. And in large part due to your personal attention, we have revitalized our political dialogue,” Putin told Duterte.

Duterte thanked Putin and noted a “dramatic increase in bilateral activities across many areas of cooperation at various levels of government.”

He noted that since the signing an agreement on defense cooperation in 2017, there have been exchanges of high-level visits between defense and security officials as well as the port calls.

A Philippine Navy vessel, for instance, sailed to Russia to participate in the naval parade in Vladivostok on the Russian Navy Day.

“We have opened our respective defense attaches in the offices in our capitals. This is an indication of our long-term commitment to elevate our defense relation,” Duterte said. (