Russia rules out military pact with Philippines

Russia has no interest in further military alliances because “they provide security for a selected few member states at the expense of others.” (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Russia rules out military pact with Philippines

  • Russia seeks ‘equal partnership’ after Duterte scraps US troops deal

MANILA: Russia has ruled out the possibility of a military alliance with the Philippines despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to end a major defense pact with the US.

Instead, Russian Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev said on Monday that Moscow’s aim was to build a “robust, equal partnership” with Manila.

“The goal of our common work here is not trying to contain someone or to create some sort of alliance,” he told senior Philippine defense officials and diplomats at a reception for Russian Armed Forces Day.

Early in February, the Duterte administration announced it would end a visiting forces agreement signed with Washington in 1998 that sets the terms for joint exercises with US troops in the Philippines.

According to Khovaev, Russia has no interest in further military alliances because “they provide security for a selected few member states at the expense of others.”

“The Russian Federation proceeds from the premise that security has to be indivisible. This is why we are not in the habit of entering into alliances,” he said.

“Equal partnerships” are necessary for stability and prosperity in the region, he added.

Asked if this ruled out a Russia-Philippines alliance similar to that between Manila and Washington, Khovaev said: “Yes. Our aim is to build a strong, robust partnership, not a military alliance. We have no military alliance in the Asia-Pacific region,” he told Arab News.

He also reiterated the importance of military cooperation between Russia and the Philippines, which was highlighted by President Vladimir Putin and Duterte during their meetings in Moscow in May 2017 and in Sochi in October 2019.

The two nations have organized joint military exercises, and the exchange of visits by Russian and Philippine navy ships in Manila and Vladivostok.

“But to tell you the truth, the full potential of our cooperation has yet to be explored,” Khovaev said. “It is indispensable because we have common threats and challenges, including terrorism, international drug trafficking, piracy and other kinds of transnational crime that we need to overcome together.”
 


Indonesia declares state of emergency as coronavirus toll jumps

Updated 31 March 2020

Indonesia declares state of emergency as coronavirus toll jumps

  • Joko Widodo’s administration has been heavily criticized for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including Jakarta
  • Indonesia’s leader offered few details of the state of emergency beyond calling for stricter social distancing

JAKARTA: Indonesian leader Joko Widodo declared a state of emergency Tuesday as coronavirus deaths in the world’s fourth most populous country jumped again, but he resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown.
Widodo’s administration has been heavily criticized for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital Jakarta, a vast megalopolis home to about 30 million people where most of the country’s virus deaths have been reported.
Indonesia’s leader offered few details of the state of emergency beyond calling for stricter social distancing, but announced $1.5 billion in beefed-up social assistance and subsidies for low-income workers.
Tens of millions eke out a living on poorly-paid jobs in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
“To overcome the impact of COVID-19, we’ve chosen the option of large-scale social distancing,” Widodo told reporters.
“We must learn from the experience in other countries, but we cannot copy them because every country has its own characteristics,” he added.
On Tuesday, authorities said 136 people had died after contracting the virus, with 1,528 confirmed cases of infection.
But the latter figure is widely thought to be well below the real number in the archipelago of more than 260 million.
The Indonesian Doctors’ Association has warned that the coronavirus crisis is far worse than has been officially reported and that the government’s response is “in tatters.”
Jakarta’s governor has said nearly 300 suspected or confirmed victims of the virus have been wrapped in plastic and quickly buried in the city since the start of March.
The capital’s top politician has been pushing for a total lockdown of the city.
Also Tuesday, Indonesia’s corrections agency said it is set to offer early release to about 30,000 inmates to help stem the spread of the virus in over-crowded prisons. The number amounts to more than 10 percent of Indonesia’s 272,000 inmate population.