The National Unity Day (also known as the Day of People’s Unity) is celebrated in Russia on Nov. 4 in commemoration of the National Liberation and symbolizes the solidarity of the Russian people.
This holiday originates in the dramatic page in our history when on Nov. 4, 1612, the Russian popular movement liberated Moscow from Polish-Lithuanian invaders. Currently the people’s unity for our compatriots is not just a metaphor, but the very basis for the existence and prosperity of our country. I’d like to reiterate the words of President Vladimir Putin: “This holiday represents the loyalty of our people to their homeland. This unbreakable bond and responsibility for our motherland have always served as the basis for Russia’s independence and sovereignty, while patriotism and love for our country have held our multi-ethnic nation together for centuries.”
Russia has 193 ethnic groups, each having its own language or dialect, and a unique religious composition with the three world religions—Christianity, Islam and Buddhism—coexisting peacefully in 89 regions of our Federation.
The Constitution recognizes all native languages of Russia as the national treasure, guarantees their preservation by creating conditions for their study and development.
In Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept, our country is characterized as an original state-civilization. From our perspective, civilization is a multifaceted concept subject to various wordings.
There was once a colonial interpretation whereby there was a “civilized world” serving as a model for the rest, who were supposed to conform to those standards. Our approach is different.
We believe that there are many civilizations, and none is superior or inferior to another. They are equal since each of them represents a unique expression of its own culture, traditions, and the aspirations of its people.
Preserving our own national unity and identity allows us to build cooperation with foreign partners on equal footing. Our country is open to mutually beneficial collaboration with all friendly states around the globe. Of course, our closest neighbors from the Commonwealth of Independent States have a special standing due to strong historical, economic and cultural ties.
GREATER EURASIAN PARTNERSHIP
On May 29, 2014, five countries—Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia—formed the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). This integrational initiative, backed by the formation of the Customs Union, very soon proved to be a success, allowing to create a joint market with the total GDP of 1,9 trillion USD and am population of 180 million people. Mutual trade and investments between EAEU members have been growing steadily despite of the external shocks and global headwinds.
EAEU stands in the center of the concept of the Greater Eurasian Partnership—Russia’s flagship project of facilitating a common economic space on the world’s largest continent—and gradually expands its ties with like-minded organizations, such as BRICS and SCO.
Both Russia and EAEU have also traditionally enjoyed good ties with ASEAN and we are considering the Association as a major partner in the Asia Pacific region.
In 2018 the two blocks signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at boosting the economic ties between them, which was followed by the adoption of the Program of cooperation for the period of 2020-2025. The EAEU-ASEAN interaction encompasses many important fields, such as energy, e-commerce, digital transformation.
Among the 10 member-states of ASEAN the Philippines is of particular significance for us. Ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries in 1976 we have been building our policy on the principles of equality and friendship.
This approach was confirmed in the congratulatory messages, which our Presidents exchanged last June 12, on the day when Russia and the Philippines simultaneously celebrate their National holidays—the Day of Russia and the Independence Day. Heads of states underlined that our nations are bounded by ties of friendship and expressed hope for further growth of cooperation in the areas of mutual interest. This positive momentum allows us to build up bilateral cooperation in the parliamentary dimension, too, through the Friendship groups in the upper chambers of our two countries.
It’s noteworthy that 17 out of 24 members of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines have joined the group of friendship with Russia. We are looking forward to the fruitful interaction between them and their Russian colleagues on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in Manila this Nov. 23-26.
We consider commercial and economic ties to be the backbone of Russia-Philippines relations. After the pandemic setback our bilateral trade surpassed 1 billion USD in 2021 and grew further by 15% in the first semester of 2022.
Although geopolitical tensions, which unprecedentedly intensified last year, caused a certain decline in our trade in terms of value in 2022, we consider it to be a temporal phenomenon.
For example, the Philippine imports to Russia surged by almost 20% in the first half of 2023 on a year-on-year basis, which shows that our economies started to adopt to the new circumstances.
In order to further boost the economic collaboration, the Trade commission of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia was established in Manila last February, in addition to the representative office of the Ministry of Agriculture opened earlier.
There are many promising spheres for mutually beneficial cooperation: manufacturing industry and agriculture, transport and logistics, telecommunications and energy, including clean energy and peaceful nuclear.
These issues, among many others, have been discussed in detail during the 3rd meeting of the Russia-Philippines joint commission, which took place in Manila last Oct. 4-5.
Representatives of nearly 30 private Russian companies arrived in the Philippines for this occasion so the intergovernmental activities were supplemented by a B2B forum.
It was the first face-to-face event of such scale after a four-year break in several years and I was pleased to see the huge enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs, because it’s up to them to unlock the vast potential of our economic ties.
Interest was so high that the actual number of participants exceeded 160 people instead of previously registered 80 attendees. Our Philippine hosts even had to change the forum venue to a bigger one right before the start, and I’d like to express my gratitude to the Department of Trade and Industry and Board of Investments for their remarkable hospitality.
Increasing people-to-people connectivity between our countries is one of the pressing issues we are working on at the moment. The launch of electronic visas last Aug. 1 was an important step in this direction, significantly simplifying immigration formalities.
E-visa allows the citizens of 52 states including the Philippines to enter the Russian Federation for the period of 16 days with private, business or touristic purposes, as well as to participate in scientific, cultural, socio-political, economic and sports events.
Opening of direct air communications can be another breakthrough in this respect, significantly fostering business, touristic and humanitarian ties. This question is now being considered by aviation authorities of Russia and the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of my citizens visit southern countries in winter months and the paradise-like islands of the Philippine archipelago can be an ideal destination for them in case of a better access.
This issue was also at the center of attention during the visit of the Philippine delegation, headed by the Mayor of Cebu Hon. Michael Rama and accompanied by the Philippine Ambassador to Moscow H.E. Igor Bailen, to the East Economic Forum in Vladivostok last September.
Mayor Rama, acting also as President of the Leagues of Cities of the Philippines, has discussed the potential of enlarging tourist exchanges both during his speaking engagements at the Forum and at the bilateral meeting with the Mayor of Vladivostok. It was their first in person meeting since the signing of the Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation between Vladivostok and Cebu on Sept. 8, 2022.
In general, I would like to emphasize the strengthening of bilateral interregional and intercity relations in the past year after the pandemic restrictions were lifted. The example set by Vladivostok and Cebu was followed by the capitals of our nations.
Last Jan. 30 the Government of Moscow and the City of Manila inked the Cooperation program, which aims to bolster collaboration in such fields as urban infrastructure and environment, business and commerce, healthcare and social programs, culture and sports.
The program saw immediate implementation during the “Days of Moscow in Manila” from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. As part of it, the Moscow City government organized a gala concert in the Aliw Theater by the dance theater “Gzhel,” which gathered over a thousand people. The standing ovation after the concert clearly demonstrated that the Russian and Filipino people are united in their love towards arts, thus underlining the significance of cultural exchange in people-to-people diplomacy.
UNITY OF CULTURES
Since we touched upon artistic exchange s , I’d like to underscore that the unity of cultures is a very important aspect behind the People’s Unity.
I’m pleased to announce that the IX International Cultural Forum will be hosted by the government of Russia in St.-Petersburg this Nov. 16-19. This event—also known as United Cultures Forum—is an internationally recognized platform that brings together prominent art figures, leading experts and officials from all over the world.
Culture has always been the basis of a dialogue for the people of various countries and the forum presents an excellent opportunity for such interaction. We are also expecting the Filipino delegates in St.-Petersburg.
But let me return to the interregional ties, among which the collaboration between Moscow and Manila is undoubtedly the “flagship project” at the moment. Our capitals have already exchanged four delegations in the course of the past 10 months and we are counting on the continuation of these intense interactions. The program of educational exchanges, which is being discussed between the leading schools of Moscow and Manila, could be especially promising in terms of involving new generations of our nations in the friendly cooperation.
Recently, I have also visited other cities and provinces of the Philippines—Baguio, Bohol, Davao, Mandaue. I am pleased to see that the local leadership is open to practical cooperation with my country in various areas. And with the steady increase of interest towards the friendly and hospitable Philippines in Russia, I hope we will forge more successful partnerships like the ones established between Vladivostok and Cebu, Moscow and Manila.
The very first Filipino expression, which I learned upon my arrival here is bayanihan spirit. I understand it as “to work together for the common goal.” This notion is inherent in the Russian tradition, too. And celebrating the Day of Unity I express hope that Russia and the Philippines by uniting their efforts will continue to build equal and mutually beneficial cooperation in the interest of our nations.