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Philippines says Canada helicopters 'not for attack'

AFP  |  Manila 

The Philippine today denied it planned to use 16 helicopters bought from as attack aircraft against local insurgents, following reports was reviewing the deal.

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.

Rodrigo Duterte's warned may walk away from the deal in light of the controversy.

"If they don't want to sell, well, we may consider the prospect of procuring them from other sources," presidential told reporters Thursday.

The stressed they were "utility helicopters, not attack helicopters".

"They must not politicise the acquisition," said Major- General Restituto Padilla, the deputy chief of staff for plans and programmes of the Philippine armed forces.

According to the Philippine defence department, the deal was signed with trade promotion outfit Canadian Commercial Corp last December, shortly after Trudeau clashed with Duterte during a visit over alleged murders of thousands of drug suspects.

The employs attack helicopters and planes to support ground troops battling militants in the Muslim south, as well as against communist guerrillas in other parts of the mainly Catholic Asian nation.

As well as in the drug war, the Philippine has for years been saddled with allegations of human rights abuses in its counter-insurgency campaigns.

A Philippine defence department told AFP on Wednesday the would use the 412EPI aircraft, worth US$234.8 million, for disaster response and humanitarian missions, but also for "anti-terrorism".

However, Padilla said Thursday this did not mean they would be used as "attack helicopters".

"Not at all. They are purely for utility purposes -- ergo, transport purposes especially during HADR operations," he said, using a term for disaster response.

"We have separate and dedicated attack helicopters."

Apart from armed insurgencies, the is also regularly battered by typhoons.

"These will be used to transport personnel, supplies, humanitarian missions, ferrying of wounded and injured soldiers, and other forms of humanitarian assistance and disaster response," Roque, the Duterte spokesman, said.

Helicopter said the Philippine would use the aircraft "for a variety of missions such as disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility transport".

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

Duterte, who has overseen a crackdown that has left nearly 4,000 drug suspects dead at the hands of the police, later described Trudeau's comments as "a personal and official insult".

The says police only shot the suspects in self-defence and rejects human rights monitors' description of the crackdown as a crime against humanity.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 08 2018. 15:05 IST