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Canada sells 16 helicopters to Philippines after drug war row

10 February 2018

"These (helicopters) are a real benefit to Filipinos", Canadian ambassador John Holmes said on the mission's Facebook page, adding it would boost Manila's "search and rescue and disaster relief capabilities".

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he is cancelling his country's plans to buy 16 military helicopters from Canada now that the Trudeau government is reviewing the deal over human-rights concerns.

"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.

Last year, the Canada-based International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland asking whether the Canadian helicopters sold in 2015 had been used for such purposes. He said they would review the facts and take the "right decision".

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"They are not attack or close support aircraft", Lorenzana said in a statement.

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

Canadian media had reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government was reconsidering the sale over fears the aircraft would be used in internal security operations, just hours after both governments had announced the deal. It became an issue of human rights, as Canada is afraid the 412s would be used against Filipino citizens.

"I'm buying helicopters because I want to finish them off", said Duterte, referring to Muslim and communist rebels along with Islamic militants in the country's volatile south.

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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. "It is a personal and official insult".

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?"

Thousands of people have allegedly been killed since July 2016 in the crackdown on drug dealers and users.

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Canada sells 16 helicopters to Philippines after drug war row