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

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte before the opening ceremony of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Manila last November. The Philippines signed a deal with Canada on Tuesd

The government initially defended the deal, saying the helicopters would only be used for disaster relief and search-and-rescue missions, and that the sale would support upwards of 1,000 jobs in the Montreal area.

"We respect the stand of Canada", Duterte said in a news conference in Davao City.

Duterte ordered to scrap the 233-million-dollar deal after Canada ordered a review of the deal and expressed concern the helicopters might be used to fight the rebels.

"Do not proceed any more, and somehow we will look for another supplier", he said of the deal for 16 Bell 412 EPI utility helicopters announced by the two governments this week.

Duterte cited conditions imposed by the American country, which had sold the equipment under the terms they would be used for evacuation and emergency purposes only.

Duterte said that he can not guarantee that the helicopters will not be used in combat operations in the future. "And we will obviously review the facts and take the right decision", Champagne told reporters according to another Reuters report.

Philippine troops and police, beset by Islamist and communist insurgencies, fought a five-month battle a year ago against Islamic State group supporters in the southern city of Marawi.

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The Liberal government has previously been criticized for approving arms exports to countries with questionable human-rights records, most notably the massive deal for light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

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.

Trudeau said in November he had called out Duterte over "human rights, the rule of law, and specifically extrajudicial killings".

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".

"These will be used to transport personnel, supplies, humanitarian missions, ferrying of wounded and injured soldiers, and other forms of humanitarian assistance and disaster response", Roque, the Duterte spokesman, said.

The Philippine government says police only shot the suspects in self-defence and rejects human rights monitors' description of the crackdown as a crime against humanity.

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