Press Release
October 22, 2015


21 October 2015, Moscow - Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today addressed the Federal Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia - the first Filipino and Asian to do so.

At this historic first, the Senate President told the gathered Russian Senators that he was "distinctly honored to address this august Chamber with the hope that I could humbly contribute to our common efforts to build better understanding between the Russian Federation and the Republic of the Philippines and to expand the frontiers of our friendship." He reaffirmed the strong and unwavering commitment of the Philippine government to further deepen the friendship and mutual understanding between the Philippines and Russia.

The Senate President also raised the issue of the conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea, saying "We are grateful to Russia for your continuing interest in this issue. Your support for the peaceful settlement of international disputes is consistent with, and supports, our principled position that the West Philippine Sea dispute should be settled according to the rule of law, particularly the UNCLOS."

Elaborating further on the situation in the West Philippine Sea, he told the Russian Senators that these are the same principles that guide the Philippines during these challenging times in the Asia-Pacific. "The Philippines is committed to the peaceful settlement of conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea in accordance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. Consistent with these norms, we have instituted arbitration proceedings with the appropriate UN tribunal with the firm hope that through international law, peace and justice will prevail," the Senate President said.

The Senate President is in Russia on the invitation of Mme. Valentina I. Matvienko, Chairperson of the Federal Council, Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, who introduced him and who chaired the Plenary Session.

Aside from speaking at the Federal Council, the Senate President also met with several top Russian officials during his stay. He also signed with Mme. Valentina I. Matvienko an agreement that will strengthen ties and boost cooperation between the upper houses of the legislatures of the Philippines and Russia.

In his address, the Senate President said that the shared interests and common sacrifices of Russians and Filipinos form the firm foundation of a lasting relationship. "While geography has destined us to be far away from each other, this has not prevented us from forging a friendship based on shared interests and enriched by parallel experiences," Senate President Drilon said, citing in particular the suffering and sacrifices of both countries in World War II.

He also recalled that both the Philippines and Russia were at the birth of the United Nations and that in negotiating the Charter, "we would find ourselves working together to outlaw war, uphold the peace and the rule of law. These are principles that we - Russians and Filipinos - share and strongly believe in, and must therefore continue to uphold and defend."

Referring to the 40th anniversary next year of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Senate President Drilon noted that "even before the establishment of formal relations, there were already contacts between our two peoples over a century earlier." Pointing out that Russia had always been familiar with the Philippines even from the time of the sailing ships, he hoped for more contact between Russians and Filipinos, particularly through increased visits by Russian tourists.

He also recalled that in the 1980's, "we saw the flowering of Russia-Philippines cultural relations . . . producing two (2) world renowned (Russian trained) artists . . . Prima Ballerina Lisa Macuja . . . and concert Pianist Rowena Arrieta . . . and only very recently, one of our best Filipino film makers, Brillante Mendoza, received the Outstanding Artistic Award in the 25th International Film Festival in St. Petersburg."

The Senate President also pushed for cooperation in other areas, saying that the Philippines wants Russia "to be one of our global partners." He cited mutual assistance to nationals caught in conflict and crisis in Third-World countries, cooperation in fighting transnational crimes, including "practical cooperative actions to combat and prevent terrorism, including terrorist financing, and build the capabilities of its international partners."

Drilon welcomed Russia's renewed focus on the Asia-Pacific, saying "Russia has an important role to play in the framework of ASEAN-led mechanisms, such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus, and the ASEAN Regional Forum." In this context he welcomed next year's meeting of ASEAN and Russian leaders in Sochi to celebrate 20 years of productive dialogue partnership.

On economic cooperation, he said that the Philippines as keen on working with Russia as this would contribute to economic growth for both countries. He pointed out that the Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia and that the long-term economic outlook is indeed optimistic.

He attributed this to reforms implemented at home, aimed at promoting good governance, curbing corruption, and strengthening the rule of law: "I am proud to say that our Senate of the Philippines has contributed greatly to advance this agenda by enacting much needed laws that are both timely and highly relevant to these objectives."

"To sustain the country's growth momentum, we need to expand the horizons of our economic partnership . . . to look beyond traditional partners and develop new ones," Senate President Drilon said.

"This is where the Philippines and Russia, one of the largest economies in the world, can work together with tangible and immediate benefit for our people. Because of our shared interests, Philippines-Russia relations have consistently grown since we established diplomatic relations almost 40 years ago - no matter what the global context was," Senate President added.

Drilon also noted that, "This year we have the perfect opportunity to create the impetus for this when His Excellency, Vladimir Putin, visits Manila during the Asia Pacific Economic Leaders Meeting."

"It will be a historic first ever visit of a Russian Head of State to the Philippines. This will usher a new phase in Philippines-Russia engagement - one that is forward-looking, agile, and growing ever closer," he said.

"Together with our Leaders and our peoples, we can, and we will, expand the frontiers of our friendship," the Senate President told the gathered Russian Senators.

He ended his address by quoting Leo Tolstoy: "Man lives consciously for himself, but serves as an unconscious instrument for the achievement of historical, universally human goals."

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