The Philippines on Tuesday formally cancelled a U.S. $233-million deal to purchase helicopters from Canada after Ottawa expressed concerns that these could be used in counter-insurgency operations.
Only six days after the two countries signed off on the deal, the Department of National Defense said it issued a notice to the Canadian Commercial Corp. terminating the contract to deliver 16 Bell 412 helicopters to the Philippine Air Force. The department said it would look instead to buy helicopters from other countries, including China and Russia.
The department said the cancelation was precipitated by the Canadian government ordering a review of the deal, a day after the contract was signed, over concerns it could violate the country’s strict regulations on weapons sales if the helicopters were to be used in combat operations by the Philippines.
“While the combat utility helicopters being purchased are primarily for the purpose of transporting personnel and supplies, the department believes that it does not owe the Canadian government any justification for an outright purchase of equipment from a privately owned company,” it said.
Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, the deputy chief of staff for planning for the Philippine Armed Forces, told BenarNews earlier that the helicopters would not be used in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign in troubled areas of the country such as Mindanao in the south, but would be tapped primarily for humanitarian missions.
The order to cancel the deal came after President Rodrigo Duterte issued a directive, citing a law on procurements that authorizes the termination of a contract for the government’s convenience.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government was looking at bids from South Korea, Russia, China and Turkey.
“We’re back to square one in the procurement process,” Lorenzana told reporters, adding that the Canadian deal took two years to finalize. In 2014, Canada had sold to the Philippine Air Force eight Bell 412 helicopters valued at $92 million.