The $12-$15 million trade and investment deals that President Rodrigo Duterte brought home from Russia on Sunday could not be earthshaking, but they were proof the Philippines could really look elsewhere for partners other than its traditional economic and military ally, the United States.
For some, it could not be much. But the significance of the Chief Executive’s trip to Moscow — aborted the first time after the terror war in Marawi broke out just as Mr. Duterte had landed in the land of the other superpower — is hidden in each and every page of the memoranda that both governments have signed.
There will now be a cooperation on information exchange and collaboration on business development between Manila and Moscow, unheard of since even after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had started to improve diplomatic ties with the former Soviet Union, amid the obstacles laid out by the US.
This will help promote trade and investment between the Philippines and Russia, especially between members of the Russia-ASEAN Business Council and several Philippine companies.
Century Pacific Food Inc. clinched much of the deals as it will now supply tuna and sardine products to Dalimo, Magnit Food Retail Chain, and LLC Dalpromryba to serve the Russian market, while its Century Pacific Agricultural Ventures Inc. will export coconut milk products to Panasia Impex Co. Ltd. to meet the needs of the Russian market.
In turn, Sturmanskie watches and Kamaz vehicles will now be sold in the Philippines through distributorship by the Lifetruck International Inc.
These are but few of the agreements the Philippine entourage had entered into with its Russian counterpart.
The most telling, however, is the possibility of exploring prospects of cooperation between the two countries in the setting up of nuclear power plants in the Philippines.
The memorandum of intent could be the most important document President Duterte had brought home with a yet quantifiable value.
The Philippines has long lagged in enhancing responsible use of nuclear energy to power the archipelago. Much of this is due to fears long associated with the now long defunct Bataan Nuclear Power Plant built by Marcos under questioned circumstances.
It was never utilized, but the people paid for the lack of an alternative source of energy with the constant power outages that marked the administration of Marcos’ successor Corazon Aquino and the continuously rising cost of electricity from the time of former President Fidel Ramos to Mr. Duterte.
Since last year, more than half of the world’s nuclear plants being constructed are located in Asia. China accounts for nearly 40 percent of these newly-built nuclear power plants, while the rest of Asia is seeing 60 percent of new energy coming to them.
Except the Philippines, as we should have expected.
A local group has long been pushing for the Philippines to become a nuclear-capable country. New technologies, its proponents say, could at least ensure the safety of a new power plant to be built, safer when compared with the coal-powered plants that kill us every second without us noticing it.
In an Asean Post article, it cited a report by the ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE ) — the “Pre-Feasibility Study on the Establishment of Nuclear Power Plant in ASEAN,” with the support of the government of Canada under the Nuclear and Radiological Program Administrative Support (NRPAS) program — which named five ASEAN member states as frontrunners in the race to establish civilian nuclear power programs in the region.
These are Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, which all have “advanced legal and regulatory frameworks, nuclear energy infrastructures and the required human resources and organization in place.”
But there are no concrete plans yet to make these countries nuclear energy capable.
The President’s trip was the first step to give the Philippines cleaner and more efficient sources of energy.
President Duterte has three years left in his six-year term. His last trip — even when he admitted suffering from an ailment before a group of Filipino audience — is proof that he, at 74, is still a man in a hurry.