by Ben Rosario
Moscow, Russia — President Duterte’s abbreviated trip here produced business deals to nearly $1 billion, which may be considered small compared with China and other countries he had earlier visited but already a record-breaking economic accomplishment in Manila’s 41-year-old diplomatic ties with Russia.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who led nearly 200 Filipino businessmen, to break business and investment deals with their Russian counterpart disclosed that so far, $875 million worth of trade have been agreed upon by Filipino and Russian firms since the start of Duterte’s visit which was originally scheduled for four days.
However, the estimated investments for the business deals already accounts to four times the total P220 million bilateral trade between the two nations in 2016.
“So far, we have around $875 million business to business projects between Philippine and Russian companies,” said Lopez who also wondered were or not President Vladimir Putin was able to receive the mangoes that Duterte meant as “pasalubong” for the Russian leader.
Lopez led a huge Philippine delegation of businessmen here in staging the Philippines-Russia Business Forum at the Four Seasons hotel on Thursday.
Filipino traders and state economic and trade officials were set to hold another business forum yesterday, this time in St. Petersburg where another huge delegation of Russian investors were waiting.
Lopez invited Russian businessmen to take advantage of the Philippines’ vastly improving economy by investing in the areas of iron and steel, transport, agribusiness, multi-purpose vehicles, power, energy, property development, transport and construction.
Lopez was among the handful Cabinet officials left in Moscow by Duterte who had to rush back home to personally attend to the Marawi crisis that prompted him to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao. The proclamation was signed in Moscow before the president left Tuesday.
Also left to sign at least 10 bilateral agreements with the Russian government were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, and Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña.
Lopez said business deals were formally sealed on economic, scientific and technical cooperation among private and government institutions such as the Department of Trade and Industry’s Philippine International Trading Corp, the Bureau of Investments and industry associations like the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Roscongress Foundation and CCRIF of Russia.
At least 200 business delegates from the Philippines met with their Russian counterparts, who represented about 90 Russian companies and immediately discussed business.
Duterte was supposed to address the Business Forum but had to return to the Philippines to supervise military efforts to confront terrorist attacks in Marawi City stage by the ISIS-influenced Maute and Abu Sayyaf bandits.
“The government is in control of the situation. It’s business as usual and we consider it as an isolated incident. It cannot stop our economic growth,” Lopez said during the forum.
According to Lopez, the business event here seeks to pave the way for more Russian companies to invest in the Philippines and for Filipino businessmen to be able to bag lucrative deals from Russia, known for their steel, oil and gas, infrastructure and arms industries.