MANILA (UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin committed to jointly address the COVID-19 pandemic during their teleconference Tuesday, the former's office said.
The two leaders also noted "the steady progress" in their countries' "defense and security cooperation" during their 30-minute conversation, according to a statement issued by Duterte's office. Manila and Moscow are marking the 45th anniversary of their diplomatic ties this year.
Pledging to "cooperate in the fight against COVID-19", Duterte and Putin discussed the "global and regional vaccine landscapes, noting that vaccines such as Russia's Sputnik V must be mobilized to as many countries as possible."
Up to 20 million doses of Sputnik V have been ordered by the Philippines, according to the statement. Of which, 500,000 are expected to arrive this month, an official said earlier in the day.
Sputnik V is among 4 COVID-19 vaccine candidates granted emergency use authorization by the Philippines' Food and Drug Administration.
Duterte and Putin "stressed the importance of ramping up global production and supplies" of the Sputnik V vaccine as they "underscored the need for continuing and strengthened collaboration to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic", the statement read.
Meanwhile, the two leaders agreed to sustain their countries' security relations as Putin said there are "many opportunities for greater cooperation in the fields of trade and investments, agriculture and energy development," said the statement.
Duterte, who has repeatedly praised Putin, conveyed again his invitation for the latter to visit the Philippines, which the Russian leader welcomed, added the statement.
Duterte met Putin in Russia in 2017 and 2019. Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades, has never made an official trip to the Philippines.
In 2016, Duterte called Putin “my favorite hero.” Last year, Duterte said he was willing to join clinical trials for Russia's COVID-19 vaccine, which the country is looking to procure.
Putin, who consolidated his autocratic rule by amending the Russian constitution, has a long list of opposition leaders, civil groups and journalists who have become “enemies of the people.”
He has emphasized his commitment to stability and security, elevating the status of security forces loyal to him, known as siloviki. These security forces now hold high positions in Russian politics, business and society.
Moscow's ties with Washington are at a post-Cold War low, with US President Joe Biden saying he believes his Russian counterpart is a killer who deserves to be hit with sanctions for meddling in US politics, charges the Kremlin denies.
Biden is an ally of former US President Barack Obama, who Duterte once cursed for criticizing his war on drugs.
In October 2016, while in China, Duterte announced his "separation" from the United States, the only treaty ally of the Philippines.
Duterte has continued to hurl anti-US remarks.
In February, Duterte told Washington to "pay" if it wanted to keep its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Philippines, a pact central to Washington's Asia strategy.
– With a report from Reuters
Video courtesy of PTV