Duterte orders military to cancel helicopter deal with Canada

Glen Norman
February 11, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte's order, issued in a news conference, came after the Canadian government chose to review the 12 billion peso ($235 million) helicopter deal due to concerns the Philippine military might use the utility helicopters in counterinsurgency assaults.

Canadian officials said they were concerned about possible human rights violations and said they had understood the helicopters were intended for non-combat operations.

"These (helicopters) are a real benefit to Filipinos", Canadian ambassador John Holmes said on the mission's Facebook page, adding it would boost Manila's "search and rescue and disaster relief capabilities".

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne is ordering a review of the planned sale of 16 412EPI helicopters to the Philippine military amid concerns about the country's human rights record.

"They are not attack or close support aircraft", he said. The allegations relate to extrajudicial executions committed during the president's war on drugs, which has killed thousands.

But those claims were undercut by Philippines Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, military chief of plans, who told journalists in Manila the aircraft "will be used for the military's internal security operations".

The review was ordered following criticism that the helicopters may be used against Filipino citizens, including rebels from the New People's Army.

The Canadian government had chose to undertake a review of the agreement to sell 16 helicopters to the Philippines after speculations were raised that these would be used for counter-insurgency assaults.

Last summer the Philippine air force used its older combat utility helicopters during intense fighting in the city of Marawi, a predominately Muslim city. Other uses would be for disaster relief. The Associated Press reported the defense secretary did say the country was not afraid to look elsewhere for sellers, should the deal with Canada fall through.

Duterte also hinted that Canada should no longer expect the Philippines' help in times of trouble as long as he is president.

"I want to tell the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to cut the deal". "We respect the stand of Canada", he explained.

The deal represents another win for the Canadian defence industry when it comes to the Southeast Asian nation; Canada also sold eight Bell helicopters made in Montreal to the Philippines armed forces in 2015.

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