Duterte cans Bell Helicopter deal


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Department of National Defense to cancel its order of 16 Bell 412EPIs  with the Canadian Government – Reuters reported.

The $233 million agreement was announced at the Singapore Airshow last week. Bell was to supply the helicopters and the deal was signed through a government-to-government contract between the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) and the Department of National Defense in Manila.

The Philippine Air Force was planning to operate the helicopters on multi-mission operations, including disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility operations.

Duterte gave the order after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanted to open an investigation into human rights concerns regarding how the helicopters would be used by the military.

The Canadian government came under flak from rights activists for the deal. The sale agreement follows President Duterte’s announcements to crack down on Islamist and Maoist rebels in the Philippines. He scrapped peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) last year and said the military was ready to step up operations against Islamist and communist rebels – CBC reported.

Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau is going ahead with the review, despite Duterte’s order – The Globe and Mail reported. Despite the understanding that the helicopters would be used for non-combat operations, the Ottawa ordered a review of the agreement. Alongside this, Philippine major-general Restituto Padilla said that the helicopters would be used for internal-security operations.

On Sunday, according to The Manila Times reported, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that other countries could supply helicopters comparable to those of Bell. He named China, Russia, Turkey, India and South Korea.

Bell delivered eight 412EP helicopters to the Philippines in 2015. The Bell H-13 was the first helicopter that the Philippine Air Force operated in 1955 and it has operated the Bell UH-1H since the late sixties. It also operates two Bell 412s.