World

Russia seeks to hold naval drills with Philippines

MANILA: Russia wants to hold maritime drills with the Philippines to help combat terrorism and piracy, sending two warships to Manila for the first official navy-to-navy contact, as President Rodrigo Duterte pivots to the US' traditional rivals.

Admiral Tributs, an anti-submarine vessel, and a sea tanker Boris Butoma, arrived yesterday for a four-day goodwill visit, with its crew expected to demonstrate anti-terrorism capability and hold talks, said Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, head of the Flotilla of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet.

"Our governments will maybe discuss the possibilities of our maritime exercises," Mr Mikhailov told a news conference, adding Russia has been holding drills with the Indonesian navy.

"The biggest problem in the world is terrorism and piracy... We will have to fight these problems and we will show you what we can do and we will see what you can show us," he said.

A spokesman for the Philippine Navy told reporters this is the first official interaction with the Russian navy, an arch-rival of its former colonial master and closest ally in the region, the US.

The US and the Philippines have been holding naval exercises annually but Mr Duterte has instructed the defence ministry to "reformat" drills, moving to repair relations with China amid tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Mr Mikhailov said they were willing to help train Philippine counterparts to fight piracy and terrorism and hope to foster stronger security in the region.

The Philippines has been struggling to prevent terrorists from abducting tugboat crew and foreigners on yachts in the maritime borders with Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Abu Sayyaf, a small violent group which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is holding captives including a German tourist and more than 10 Malaysian and Indonesian crewmen. - REUTERS

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