When Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced in 2016 that he would re-align himself with Russia, many political leaders thought it was a joke. One analyst even asked how can the two countries become military allies when nationals of both countries could not even understand each other's language.
Leaving aside the language barrier, it has become a reality now as Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he will be seeking military weapons from Russia and let the Filipino soldiers operate them with the help of Russian instruction manuals.
Months later, the pronouncement took a concrete shape as Russia delivered 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 20 military trucks, one million rounds of ammunition and 5,000 steel helmets on October 25, 2017, to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Military sources said that all these military equipment and gadgets will be used against the growing ISIS terror threat in the Southern Philippines and surprisingly the military assets or assistance received by the Army were all free and in a form of a military grant.
Russia's military gestures to the Philippines did not stop there. The Philippines and Russia also signed a technical cooperation agreement that would allow both military outfits to conduct joint research, production support and possible exchanges of military personnel for tactical training purpose.
This agreement came despite the existing Philippine military agreement with the United States called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, otherwise known as EDCA.
On several occasions, Duterte had announced that he wanted a joint military exercise with Russia and has been pushing his trade and foreign ministers to expand trade relations with Russia.
The improvement of Philippine-Russia relations came about when Duterte visited Russia to meet Russia President Vladimir Putin. Duterte had to cut short his stay in Russia when 700 ISIS-inspired militants raided Marawi and fought against the Philippine soldiers.
Moreover, Duterte has repeatedly told the Filipino public that Putin is his idol and reiterated that he prefers Russian weapons over those provided by the US military equipment suppliers.
The pertinent question before analysts now is whether the Philippine military relations with longtime ally US will be affected if Duterte continues to enhance military tie up with Russia, a country which has remained a distant diplomatic challenge. Many are also wondering what would be the US reaction to Duterte's aggressive alignment with Russia.
The Duterte government has announced, after the Marawi battle, that his government will focus this time on crushing the two remaining militant organizations -- Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Will it be feasible with the Russian weapons supplied now?
Not only will Russian weapons be put to test in this new battle but it will also be interesting to watch if the Philippine military ties with Russia turn worthy of it.