DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Feb) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Armed Forces of Philippines to cancel the multi-billion dollar deal with Canada for the purchase of 16 helicopters after its government called for a review on this transaction for fear it might be used in counterinsurgency operations.
During a press conference at the Matina Enclaves here Friday night, Duterte said he respects the stand of Canada, whose government reportedly insisted it would sell helicopters only for evacuation and emergency purposes and that it cannot be used for anti-insurgency operations.
“So this is my reaction: I want to tell the Armed Forces to cut the deal, ‘wag na ituloy (cancel it) and somehow we will look for another supplier,” he said.
He also ordered the military not to buy from the United States because like Canada, it imposes conditions.
“So from here on now, I am directing Armed Forces of the Philippines since most of the guns, bullets and whatever weapons of war, gagamitin naman talaga (will really be used)… invariably it will be used against the rebels and terrorists, do not buy anymore from Canada or from the United States because there is always condition attached,” he said.
The Canadian government on Wednesday ordered a review of the $233 million agreement to sell 16 helicopters to the Philippines, amid concerns the aircraft would be used to fight rebels. The review was ordered a day after the agreement was signed.
A Reuters report on February 8 quoted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as saying Canada has very clear regulations to whom it can sell weapons and how they can be used. “We are going to make sure before this deal or any other deal goes through that we are abiding by the rules … that Canadian governments have to follow,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
The helicopters are supposed to be delivered early next year.
In a statement on Thursday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the 16 Bell 412 helicopters for the Armed Forces of the Philippines “will primarily be used for the transportation of personnel and supplies, ferrying wounded and injured soldiers, and the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. They are not attack or close support aircraft. While they may be used in support of Internal Security Operations or ISO, their role is limited to those that I mentioned.”
Lorenzana added that the Bell CUH (Combat Utility Helicopter) 412 “is a utility helicopter and, contrary to what some parties mistakenly believe, its mission is to save lives.”
But Lorenzana added that “should the Canadian Government chooses to discontinue their sale of the aircraft to us, then we will procure them from another source.”
Duterte explained that if government forces could not use helicopters against terrorists and rebels, the country must prepare for eventual collapse.
He said he cannot allow the global terrorist group Islamic State (IS) to further contaminate the country.
“If I cannot use the gunship and helicopters, then I might as well surrender this government to them,” he said. “That’s the logic. I do not question your logic. Your logic is your logic. My logic is mine. It is based on the realities on the ground.”
On May 23, 2017, the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group attacked the Marawi City, which prompted the President to place the whole of Mindanao under Martial Law. The siege lasted for five months.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist influence” on October 17, a day after Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, alleged Emir of the ISIS in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute of the Maute Group were killed by government forces in Marawi. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated all combat operations in Marawi on October 23, exactly five months since the siege began.
Duterte also vowed to put an end to the communist insurgency. He called off the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) on November 23 through Proclamation 360, two days before the scheduled fifth round of talks in Oslo, Norway.
Proclamation 360 ordered the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza and the government peace negotiators to stop all peace talks with the communist group for failing to show “sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged on acts of violence and hostilities, endangering the lives and properties of innocent people.”
Duterte was prompted to issue the order, following the NPA ambush on a police patrol vehicle in Bukidnon last November 9, 2017 that left two persons dead, including four-month old, Walysha Machorao, and six people injured.
On December 5, 2017, Duterte Proclamation No. 374 designating the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as terrorist organizations pursuant to RA No. 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.
The NDF represents the CPP and NPA in the peace negotiations.
Duterte urged the rebels in his previous speeches to lay down arms and go back to the government fold, as he promised to provide livelihood support and employment opportunities. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas)