Philippines to cancel $233 million helicopter deal with Canada

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"They must not politicise the acquisition", said Major-General Restituto Padilla, the deputy chief of staff for plans and programmes of the Philippine armed forces.

The helicopter deal is worth an estimated $300 million and was quietly facilitated by Canadian Commercial Corp., a Crown corporation whose role includes selling Canadian-made military equipment to foreign governments.

Duterte, who has been critical of USA security policies and has lashed out at Washington for criticizing his deadly crackdown on illegal drugs, did not elaborate on why he wants purchases of unspecified US arms to be stopped.

The worldwide criminal court revealed Thursday it has launched an initial inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by Duterte. However, the defense minister later clarified that the Bell 412EPI helicopters were mainly for transport, rescue and disaster response. Duterte, who once boasted about throwing a man to his death from a helicopter, has also warned government officials they would face the same fate if he learned they were involved in corruption.

International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne cited Padilla's comments as the reason the Liberal government launched its review.

The Crown corporation would not reveal any other details about the deal, citing commercial confidentiality, but media reports say the Philippines government had set aside almost $300 million for the purchase.

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

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque asserted that the Bell helicopters would be used to transport personnel and relief supplies during calamities as well as ferry wounded soldiers.

Last summer the Philippine air force used its older combat utility helicopters during intense fighting in the city of Marawi, a predominately Muslim city. They would be used in disaster relief efforts.

Duterte said he has no issues with Canada's position on the helicopters but noted that the Philippines has its own needs. 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. "We respect the stand of Canada", he explained.

The Bell H-13 Sioux, a variant of the Bell 47, was the first helicopter to enter into service with the Philippine Air Force in 1955, Bell said.

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