Canada-Philippines helicopter deal sparks human rights concerns

Champagne orders review of controversial helicopter deal with the Philippines

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque asserted that the Bell helicopters would be used to transport personnel and relief supplies during calamities as well as ferry wounded soldiers.

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

Earlier, Canada ordered a review of the deal and expressed concern the helicopters might be used to fight rebels and drug smugglers.

"I want to tell the armed forces to cut the deal, don't proceed with it and somehow we will look for another supplier", Duterte said of the helicopter purchase.

At one point during the briefing, Duterte asks someone in audience how many helicopters his country is buying from Canada.

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It covers north and central Sinai, the Nile Delta and the Western Desert along the porous border with Libya. The military has launched security campaigns in the North Sinai area, in which some terrorists are based.

The helicopters are being procured for the Philippines Armed Forces in support of internal security operations.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday that an "extremely rigorous human rights review" would be undertaken before any export permit was issued over the helicopter contract.

"We are going to make sure, before this deal or any other deal goes through, that we are abiding by the rules and the expectations", he said. Human rights groups accuse police of carrying out illegal killings, staging crime scenes and falsifying reports, a charge they deny.

Neither the Canadian Commercial Corporation nor Global Affairs Canada responded to questions about whether the government conducted a human-rights assessment before approving the most recent helicopter sale.

Mr Trudeau told journalists that he spoke with the Mr Duterte about concerns related to extrajudicial killings linked to the president's war on drugs. "The reason I'm buying helicopters is because I want to finish them off".

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In 2014, the Philippines also bought eight Bell 412 helicopters from Bell Helicopter.

"Not at all. They are purely for utility purposes - ergo, transport purposes especially during HADR operations", he said, using a military term for disaster response. "People just don't understand", said Duterte.

NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere has added her voice to the chorus of concern, writing on Twitter: "How can Trudeau justify this deal with the Philippines when Duterte's government has plunged the country into a bad human rights crisis?"

The Canadian PM said Duterte has been receptive to comments regarding his government's crackdown on drug dealers that had claimed several lives.

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