Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said the government is working “aggressively” to improve the Philippines’ market access to Russia, particularly on agricultural products.
“Our primary objective is market access. Russian taste is evolving. They’re willing to try things that are new. So we have, I believe, a good market here for agricultural products,” Sorreta said in a media interview at the Philippine Embassy in Moscow on Wednesday.
As early as the first meeting between President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in 2016, Sorreta said the two leaders vowed to announce “good news” that will create more opportunities in the agricultural, fishing, and manufacturing sector.
“There will be agreements that will create demand for our products which means more workers will be employed by the corporations. Farmers will get higher value for their products. Manufacturers will be creating more jobs and more importantly, the Philippines will be identified as a major player in the agricultural market here, on the food market here — food and drink,” Sorreta said.
Sorreta said the government would have to overcome challenges such as Russia’s current impression of the Philippines.
“The problem is Russians have a very little knowledge of the Philippines. What little knowledge they have is stereotypical of the Philippines. So dahil nga (because) we’re identified more with another country where they have problems. So they identify us with that country,” Sorreta said, referring to the United States, the Philippines’ only military ally.
He has assured Russia that the Philippines will not get in between its problems with other countries.
“We’re not taking sides. We just want to do business with you. We want to bring our peoples closer together and learn more from each other,” Sorreta said.
The envoy said that to promote its products, the Philippines should promote the country first.
“You just can’t promote our fruits without telling the story of the Philippines, of the Filipino people, of the sustainable farming of our long tradition of using healthy and organic inputs in our agriculture and you have to tell the story of a warm and friendly people, of beautiful places for tourists to visit, of a great culture, a great art, and music,” Sorreta said.
“We have to sell the whole country, our people, our places, our history,” he added.
To create that better knowledge and understanding of the Philippines, Sorreta said the embassy has organized events such as food tasting and cooking demonstrations featuring its agricultural products.
Moreover, he said they are also boosting culture, art, and tourism promotion.
“We’ve been having slight increases over the years in tourism arrival from Russia. And they travel a lot to Southeast Asia. Almost two million go to Southeast Asia. The bulk goes to Thailand, about 1.4 million. We get about 30,000 to 35,000,” Sorreta said.
“So we need to exert more effort. There’s no doubt that Russians travel. They just need to know more about the Philippines and they travel to Southeast Asia,” he added.
Sorreta, meanwhile, said he is confident that Duterte is in a “very great position to speak about the eastern perspective” in his bilateral meeting with Putin.
“We are located in the east. Our neighbors are all east and I think the President will have a very good perspective to share from that very unique point of view,” Sorreta said. (PNA)