MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday ordered the cancellation of a $233-million chopper deal with Canada after several Canadian politicians questioned why Ottawa allowed the purchase despite reported human rights violations in the country under the tough-talking Filipino leader.
“I want to tell the Armed Forces to cut the deal. Huwag na ituloy and somehow we will look for another supplier. We respect the stand of Canada,” Duterte said in a news conference in Davao City.
"Do not buy anymore from Canada or from the United States because there is always a condition attached."
Ottawa had raised concerns the choppers would be used to fight rebels after Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, chief of plans at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said the helicopters would be used for internal security operations apart from deployment in search-and-rescue and disaster relief missions.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Bell helicopters would be used to transport personnel and relief supplies during calamities, as well as ferry wounded soldiers.
Canada's International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne earlier said the deal formally signed Tuesday had been struck in 2012 on the understanding the helicopters would be used for search-and-rescue missions.
"When we saw that declaration ... we immediately launched a review with the relevant authorities. And we will obviously review the facts and take the right decision," Champagne told reporters, without giving more details.
The Bell 412EPI helicopters were due be delivered early next year as the Philippine military prepares to step up operations against Islamist and communist rebels.
Asked later whether he was concerned the helicopters might be used against Filipino citizens, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replied: "Absolutely."
Canada has very clear regulations about to whom it can sell weapons and how they can be used, he said during a question and answer event at the University of Chicago. -- with Reuters, Agence France-Presse