Discontinue helicopter deal with Canada — Duterte to AFP

Discontinue helicopter deal with Canada — Duterte to AFP

Discontinue helicopter deal with Canada — Duterte to AFP

The Philippines is seeking to allay concerns over its planned purchase of 16 Bell 412 helicopters from Canada.

This was in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's armed forces modernization program.

News reports said government officials from the Philippines does not plan to use the helicopters for counterinsurgency operations.

"When we saw that declaration ... we immediately launched a review with the relevant authorities".

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday that an "extremely rigorous human rights review" would be undertaken before any export permit was issued over the helicopter contract.

"If I can not use the gunship, the helicopter, then I might as well surrender this government to [the rebels]. We are neutral", Duterte said, without making clear if he was referring to Canada or the USA, his country's treaty ally, or both.

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".

The two governments announced the deal less than three months after Duterte and Trudeau clashed.

Almost 4,000 Filipinos have been killed by police in the campaign since June 2016.

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Opposition parties and human-rights groups have called for the cancellation of the sale of light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia over concerns they would be misused.

Trudeau, who raised human rights concerns to President Rodrigo Duterte a year ago, replied: "Absolutely".

"If they don't want to sell, well, we may consider the prospect of procuring them from other sources", presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters yesterday.

The Philippines employs attack helicopters and planes to support ground troops battling militants in the Muslim south, as well as against communist guerrillas in other parts of the mainly Catholic Asian nation.

The Philippine defence department acquired eight of the same Bell aircraft model in 2015, which it said went mostly to an air force unit assigned with providing air transport for the Philippine president. They would be used in disaster relief efforts.

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

The Canadian leader was praised by human rights groups for raising the concerns, but Duterte said he was insulted and angered by the remarks.

Duterte, who has overseen a crackdown that has left almost 4,000 drug suspects dead at the hands of the police, later described Trudeau's comments as "a personal and official insult", adding he would only answer to his Filipino electorate.

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