Philippines president orders cancelation of $233mn helicopter deal with Canada

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, February 9, ordered the military to withdraw the plan to purchase 16 Bell helicopters worth $233 million from Canada as he admitted that the helicopters and other military equipment would be used for counter-insurgency assaults.

"The reason I'm buying helicopters is because I want to finish them off", Duterte added. Some military officials reportedly claimed the helicopters would be used for the military's internal security operations as well as search-and-rescue and disaster response operations.

He added that the Canadian government will make sure any deal entered into by the their government are "abiding by the rules and expectations that are not just values, but actual rules that the Canadian government has to follow".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government chose to undertake a review of the 12 billion peso ($235 million) deal, which was announced this week, due to concerns the Philippine military may use the helicopters in counterinsurgency assaults, according to news reports.

Those include extrajudicial killings, the destruction of homes, unlawful arrests and other alleged violations.

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But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also raised concerns about extrajudicial killings while visiting the country in November, specifically those related to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's violent crackdown on illegal drugs.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippine government could buy elsewhere if Canada decides to scuttle the sale of the Bell 412EPIs, which he said would be used to ferry supplies and troops, including those wounded in combat, and respond to disasters. Huwag na ituloy and somehow we will look for another supplier.

Rights groups like Amnesty International have said the Philippine government's anti-drug campaign is causing a human rights crisis. Duterte said then that he was insulted and angered by Trudeau's remarks.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said yesterday that an "extremely rigorous human rights review" would be undertaken before any export permit was issued over the helicopter contract, facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corp.