PGMA returns home Sunday with RP-Russia air pact signing nod

June 7, 2009 9:17 am 

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, June 6 -– President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo returns to the Philippines on Sunday (June 7), bringing home with her the assurance of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the air flight agreement between the Philippines and Russia will be finally approved by Moscow’s Ministry of Transportation, and relations between the two countries greatly enhanced.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the Russian leader made the commitment to President Arroyo during their 45-minute bilateral meeting Friday on the sidelines of the 13th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum here.

He described Medvedev’s assurance as a “major, major” accomplishment of President Arroyo’s three-day official visit to attend the 13th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The Arroyo administration has been pushing for Russia’s approval of the air pact as an vital component of its tourism program.

Remonde said the Russia leader told President Arroyo that the delay in the approval of the agreement was a “mere bureaucratic matter,” and that he would instruct the Ministry of Transportation to act immediately on the pending accord.

“The direct flight between the Philippines and Russia is a go,” Remonde said after the Arroyo-Medvenev meeting.

He said that before proceeding to St. Petersburg, President Arroyo met with tourism officials in Moscow who told that the absence of a direct flight between the Philippines and Russia was a major setback to the two countries’ tourism programs.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo has been authorized to sign the agreement on behalf of the Philippine government, but his Russian counterpart has yet to receive the go-ahead to sign the accord.

Before proceeding to the economic forum, where she was one of the four panelists, the President was personally escorted by Medvedev on a tour of the exhibit of new Russian products and processes outside the main venue of the forum.

Philippine diplomatic relations with Russia goes back to June 1974 with the defunct Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR). After the breakup of the USSR, agreements between the two countries were taken over by the Russian Federation.

Last year, the Philippine government, through its embassy in Moscow undertook new initiatives to raise to a higher level the two countries’ trade and enhance interaction in various fields, notably agriculture, energy, tourism, education, culture, sports, science and technology.

These areas of cooperation were identified during the visit to the Philippines of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Aug. 2007.

Since 1976, Russia and the Philippines have concluded 22 bilateral agreements, 12 of them under the administration of President Arroyo. The latest accord was the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Russia’s Academy of Labor and Social Relations (ALSR) and the University of San Carlos, which was signed on May 4, 2009. (PNA)

DCT/RMA/OPS/rsm

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