Manila, Philippines. The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has left for a four-day official visit to Russia, where he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and participate in the signing of several agreements, including on defense cooperation and trade.

During his departure speech Monday, Duterte said the visit underscores his independent foreign policy and desire to forge closer ties with the Russian Federation. He said overdependence on traditional American and western partners in the past has limited the Philippines’ room to maneuver in a dynamic international arena.

Duterte has reached out to China and Russia in a dramatic shift in foreign policy for the Philippines, a former US treaty partner. Duterte took power last June and has been quickly looking to take the Philippines in a new direction, away from American domination.

Duterte said that Russia must “cease to be on the margins of Philippine diplomacy” and that he’ll correct a past strategic oversight that’s led to many missed opportunities, by improving relations and more cooperation on future matters of mutual interest between the two nations.

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