Duterte Orders Bell Helicopter Deal Cancellation After Canada Raises Human Rights Issue

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. REUTERS  Dondi Tawatao

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. REUTERS Dondi Tawatao

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he has ordered the military to cancel a $233 million agreement to purchase 16 helicopters from Canada.

Following the Canadian government's announcement that it is now reviewing its sale to the Philippine government of 16 Bell helicopters, Roque said: "If they don't want to sell, we may consider the prospect of procuring them from other sources".

Duterte said in the future the Philippine military will not buy its equipment from either Canada or the U.S.

But a senior officer in the Philippines military, which has been accused of committing human-rights abuses in its war with local terrorists and rebels, admitted they would be used for internal security operations.

The helicopters, Bell said, were to be used for missions including disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility transport.

Mr Lorenzana said on Thursday that the helicopters will be used in a "limited" role primarily "for the transportation of personnel and supplies, ferrying wounded and injured soldiers, and the conduct of humanitarian and assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations".

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But Duterte said on Friday he did not blame the United States and that he remains a staunch supporter of its president, Donald Trump, whom he said was misunderstood.

"I hope that we will never be called upon to use arms in their defense or for them. Somehow we will look for another supplier", the President said during a press conference in Davao City. The allegations relate to extrajudicial executions committed during the president's war on drugs, which has killed thousands.

The Bell Helicopter said the 16 Bell 412EPI helicopters, fully configured and equipped with advanced features, are being acquired as part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization plans, and were purchased by the Philippine defense department through a government-to-government contract with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). "And we will obviously review the facts and take the right decision", Champagne told reporters according to another Reuters report. "He is doing it also for his country, people just don't understand him". "The reason I'm buying helicopters is because I want to finish them off".

Trudeau said in November he had spoken to Duterte about "human rights, the rule of law, and specifically extrajudicial killings".

The Canadian PM said Duterte has been receptive to comments regarding his government's crackdown on drug dealers that had claimed several lives.

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