Thursday, 22 February, 2018

Despite Trudeau's human rights concern, Canada sells weapons to Philippines

Champagne orders review of controversial helicopter deal with the Philippines Palace: We can look elsewhere for military choppers
Lillian Steele | 12 February, 2018, 01:36

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.

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.

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.

During Trudeau's official visit in the Philippines a year ago for the 31st Association of South East Nations, he said that he "impressed upon" Duterte the need to respect the rule of law to combat illegal drugs.

"Do not buy any more from Canada and the USA because there is always a condition attached", he said, referring to defence materiel.

"These are multi-purpose aircraft for anti-terrorism as well as HADR", he said, using military lingo that refers to disaster response and humanitarian missions. "And we will obviously review the facts and take the right decision", Champagne told reporters, without giving more details.

"The prime minister and I have been very clear about the Duterte regime's human rights abuses and the extrajudicial killings", she told parliament.

President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman warned Manila may walk away from the deal in light of the controversy. "We are neutral", Duterte said, without making clear if he was referring to Canada or the USA, his country's treaty ally, or both.

News of the sale caused some in Canada to raise concerns over Duterte's human rights record.

The military stressed they were "utility helicopters, not attack helicopters".

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".

Duterte, who has overseen a crackdown that is said to have left almost 4,000 drug suspects dead, described Trudeau's comments as "a personal and official insult".

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