Duterte: 'The Russians are with me, so I can't be afraid'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 21) — In a gesture seen as a sign of things to come in terms of relations between Manila and Moscow, President Rodrigo Duterte personally toured a Russian guided missile cruiser docked in Philippine waters on Friday afternoon.

Duterte boarded "Varyag" at the Port of Manila where he was shown the warship's fighter helicopter, short and long range anti-missile rocket systems and distance anti-ship missile and anti-aircraft carrier.

With him were Acting Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Russian Ambassador Igor Khovayev.

Varyag is one of the two Russian Navy Pacific Fleet ships currently in the country.

Related: Duterte eyes 'best of friends' status between Philippines and Russia

While taking a photo with some of the ship's officials, Duterte was heard saying, "The Russians are with me, so I can't be afraid."

This is the second time that Duterte visited a Russian vessel. In January, he visited the large anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs, which was also anchored in the country for a goodwill visit. No other Philippine President has done this before — taking an actual tour of Russian vessels.

In January, the President visited the Russian large anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs, which also anchored in the country for a goodwill visit.

Sign of things to come?

Esperon said the President's visit was just a goodwill gesture but could also lead to joint drills between Philippine and Russian navies.

He added that a defense cooperation might be finalized when the President would have visited Moscow next month.

Related: Duterte to visit Russia on May 25

It can be recalled that Duterte had previously said that he welcomed the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Moscow. 

Duterte and Putin met last November on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima, Peru.

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong contributed to this report.