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SFA-AGR-428-06                                                                                                                                                                                                                             05 June 2006

Philippines, Russia mark 30 years of diplomatic ties 

5 June 2006 — Philippine Ambassador to Moscow, Russia Ernesto V. Llamas reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs that the Philippines and Russia observed thirty years of formal diplomatic relations on 2 June 2006 through an exchange of messages of top-level officials in the mass media, and a recognition of initiatives in the fields of politics, economics, culture and tourism. 

Ambassador Llamas said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin exchanged official messages in the two countries' leading newspapers, the Philippine Star and Izvestia

The Ambassador explained that Izvestia has been a respected long-running, high-circulation daily since the former Soviet Union until present-day Russia. Founded at the cusp of the November 1917 revolution, it is now owned by the state-run Gazprom and the partner of the International Herald Tribune in Russia. 

"On behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of the Philippines, I wish to convey my warmest felicitations to Your Excellency and to the Government and the People of the Russian Federation as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries," President Arroyo said in the official message published in the Russian language in the 2 June edition. 

Ambassador Llamas said that the quarter page announcement, which also included the official message of Foreign Secretary Alberto G, Romulo to his counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, was published at the bottom fold of the International News Section on page 6. 

Both messages by the Philippine officials spoke about increasing and mutually beneficial cooperation between the Philippines and Russia at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. 

"For the past three decades, the Philippines and Russia have enjoyed friendly and close relations, strengthened by cooperation in the political, economic and cultural arena," President Arroyo said. "With a view to deepening our relations further, we have started collaborative efforts in the field of security and combating transnational crimes, and the establishment of sister-city relations and inter-university linkages." 

Apart from bilateral agreements to combat transnational crimes and cross-border terrorism, the Philippines and Russia are progressing in talks to ease entry procedures for officials to visit each other. Manila and Moscow are concluding talks to sign an intercity cooperative agreement, while Cebu and St. Petersburg have progressed to scheduling exploratory talks later this year to push a similar relationship. 

A visit by Secretary Romulo to Moscow and St. Petersburg in October 2005 advanced talks in various other areas, leading to the signing of a tourism cooperation agreement by Tourism Secretary Joseph "Ace" Durano and Federal Tourism Agency Head Vladimir Strzhalkovsky during a selling mission by the Department of Tourism to Russia in March 2006. The two countries also signed a cultural cooperation protocol last month. 

In the field of education the University of the Philippines and the Lomonosov Moscow State University are considering signing a university-level agreement that would broaden exchanges among students, researchers and faculty between the two countries. St. Petersburg State University, with its strengths in geological, archeological and other scientific studies as well as the humanities, is also exploring a similar tie-up with UP. 

"The Philippines also looks forward to reaching an agreement with Russia toward the establishment of mutually beneficial ventures in the energy sector," President Arroyo said in the message. 

The President and Secretary Romulo likewise mentioned the crucial role the Philippines is expected to play this year in improving ASEAN's relations with Russia when it takes over the annual chairmanship of the 10-nation grouping after the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting in July in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Coincidentally, the Philippines also takes over the role of coordinator of ASEAN's 10-year dialogue partnership with Russia. 

President Putin and Minister Lavrov have standing invitations to visit the Philippines. No Russian Head of State has ever visited the Philippines: the highest ranking official to visit the Philippines was the brother of Tsar Nicholas II, Grand Duke Alexis, who became the toast of colonial Manila in 1894. 

In contrast President Ferdinand Marcos visited Moscow to sign the official documents formalizing the relationship in 2 June 1976. In 1997, President Fidel Ramos visited Moscow and St Petersburg. 

The last Russian Foreign Minister to visit Manila was Igor Ivanov, who was received by the late Foreign Secretary Blas F. Ople in December 2002.  Secretary Romulo made a visit to St. Petersburg and Moscow in October 2005. 

As part of the commemorative year Russia saw the visits by three of the Philippines' top performing arts groups. 

Ballet Manila visited seven cities during a 16-day tour of the Ural Mountains and western Siberia in December 2005 as a pre-launching event. The Bayanihan National Folk Dance Company performed with the Loktev Dance Ensemble at the historic Hermitage Theatre in an evening of folk dances on 15 March 2006, while the Philippine Madrigal Singers made a five-concert tour of Moscow on 12-17 May 2006. 

The performances of the Bayanihan and the Madrigals signaled the return of the two performing groups to the Moscow stage in 30 years. They received the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Department of Tourism, as well as the cooperation of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography.  END