Two Russian warships made port calls in the capital of the Philippines last week and President Rodrigo Duterte toured an anti-submarine vessel, Reuters reported.
The Philippines is finalizing a security deal with Russia to exchange visits and observe military drills, a minister said on Monday, while assuring the United States that ties with Moscow will not affect its American alliance.
Duterte has been instumental in patching up Chinese-Filipino relations too which became strained in 2013 when Manila asked an international tribunal in The Hague to rule on China’s claim to large parts of the South China Sea.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against China but Beijing refused to recognize the decision against the seven artificial Chinese islands in the area.
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam as well as the Philippines, have similar claims.
The US Navy base in Subic Bay has been shuttered for more than two decades already, but major strategic changes in both Manila and Washington became apparent even before China’s navy seized an American underwater drone close to the base last month.
The Trump administration is aware that the infrastructure in Subic is ready to roll. Jack Walker, a retired Marine Corps sergeant among the some 14 000 American veterans who reside around Subic and nearby Angeles city, the former home of Clark Air Base, told The Washington Times that everything is still in place.
US Navy ships have been making regular port calls since 2012.
Philippine Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana told Reuters that the military agreement with Moscow would not allow rotational deployment of Russian troops, planes and ships in Manila for mutual defense.
“It’s not similar to the US which is a treaty, Mutual Defence Treaty, which mandates them to help us in case we’re attacked,” he said. “We won’t have that with Russia. The MOU is about exchange of military personnel, visits and observation of exercises.”
He said the sale of new weapons systems from Russia will be discussed.