Philippines and Russia sign nuclear cooperation deal

By: Will Feuer - Posted on: May 26, 2017 | Current Affairs

The deal suggests President Duterte is serious about his pledge to move away from the US and cosy up to ‘non-traditional partners’

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) welcomes Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 23 May 2017. Photo: EPA/Maxim Shemetov/Pool

After Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to Moscow was cut short due to fighting in the Philippines’ southern province of Mindanao, the Southeast Asian nation’s foreign affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano signed an agreement with Russia to cooperate on the development of nuclear energy, according to Russia’s state nuclear agency.

CEO of Rosatom State Atomic Energy, Alexey Likhachev, explained Friday that the two countries will seek to develop nuclear infrastructure, including personnel training, and will attempt to influence public opinion on nuclear energy.

“The signed document offers our countries plenty of opportunities… to develop practical application of nuclear technology in healthcare, agricultural and many other crucial sectors of the Philippines’ economy,” he said, according to ABS-CBN reporters.

In the wake of the agreement, Duterte has approved a feasibility study on using nuclear energy as a way of meeting the country’s growing demand for electricity. Despite the Philippines’ new wave of interest in nuclear energy, they have had a nuclear power plant in Bataan for more than 30 years, which has, to this day, never been used.

Before Duterte departed for Russia, the Philippines’ Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Cleofe Natividad referred to the President’s visit as “a landmark that will send a strong message of the Philippines’ commitment to seek new partnerships and strengthen relations with non-traditional partners such as Russia”.

Natividad’s followed a series of similar remarks and antagonistic behaviour from Duterte’s administration that has raised fears in Washington that the country is breaking away from its historical alliance with the US.

During a trip to China last year, Duterte said that the US had “lost now”.  

“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,” he said. “Maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”