February 24, 2018, 10:14 pm
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Helicopter purchase

PRESIDENT Duterte has stopped the purchase of military helicopters from Canada, following the stance of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to review the contract of sale over human rights concerns.

Earlier, the Canadian ambassador expressed the same sentiment, although not directly criticizing the war against illegal drugs which is the centerpiece of President Duterte’s government.

Once again, Duterte displayed his characteristic angst and sensitivity whenever extra judicial killings and the drugs war are being criticized.

The President had the same reaction when members of the European Union aired the same concerns. Now, it is Canada’s turn to get his goat.

On instruction of the President, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that they are stopping the process of buying helicopters from Canada, and looking at other buy options in China, South Korea, Russia and Turkey.

The aircraft deal is worth $233 million, and would have been a good one for the supplier-state.

“We are eyeing other countries for the medium lift helicopters in lieu of the Bell 412,” said Lorenzana. Earlier, the Canadian ambassador expressed concern over the intended use of these new helicopters, because while the government says it would be used as transport vehicles especially during natural disasters, the Canadian official thought the choppers might be used to attack rebels and civilians.

It is well that Lorenzana said he will prepare the formal letter to Canada scrapping the purchase of 16 Bell 412 combat utility helicopters which are supposed to be delivered early next year.

The DND’s clarification that the choppers would be used for the military’s internal security operations as well as search and rescue during disaster does not hold much water with Canada’s leadership.

In the wake of these developments, Duterte’s instruction to find another supplier is most welcome. This is because the process of specification, inspection, investigation, bidding and the like is long, and as it is, the Philippines has lost valuable time already with the scrapping of the original purchase.

Now we have to start the process of purchase all over again.

But it is well worth it. The Philippines is the buyer, and Canada is the seller. In the sale of military aircraft and other vehicles, the buyer’s interest must prevail. Especially so when there are several suppliers available in the market.

It is welcome news that President Duterte is pushing now the long-delayed modernization of the Armed Forces, starting with the needs of the Navy and the Air Force.
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