Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has canceled a $235 million contract to buy 16 helicopters from Canada.
Duterte announced the move on February 9 after the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered a review of the helicopter contract over human rights concerns in the Philippines.
“I want to tell the armed forces to cut the deal. Do not proceed anymore, and somehow we will look for another supplier,” Duterte said.
The deal involved 16 Bell 412EPI utility helicopters.
Trudeau said in November during an official trip to attend an ASEAN summit hosted by Manila that he had called out Duterte over “human rights, the rule of law, and specifically extrajudicial killings”.
Duterte, for his part, later criticized Trudeau’s comments as “a personal and official insult.”
The Canadian government said on February 8 that the deal was under review due to concerns over human rights in the Philippines.
Duterte is the subject of a complaint in the International Criminal Court over the alleged “mass murder” of thousands of Filipino drug suspects.
Bell Helicopter said in an announcement of the deal that the aircraft were intended “for a variety of missions such as disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility transport.”
The Philippine government had said that the choppers would also be used for “anti-terrorism” operations, including to evacuate soldiers wounded fighting insurgents.
“I am sure Canada is a bright boy. But the terrorists, ISIS, are contaminating the locals. And if I cannot use the gunships, the helicopters, then I might as well surrender this government to them,” Duterte said.
“The reason I’m buying helicopters is that I want to finish them off,” Duterte added.
Philippine troops are fighting Muslim rebels in Mindanao and communist guerrillas in other parts of the country.
“Do not buy any more from Canada and the US because there is always a condition attached,” Duterte said.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on February 8 that an “extremely rigorous human rights review” would be undertaken before any export permit was issued over the helicopter contract.
The contract was facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a government company.
“The prime minister and I have been very clear about the Duterte regime’s human rights abuses and the extrajudicial killings,” Freeland said.
“I have the authority to deny a permit if I feel that it poses a risk to human rights, and I am prepared to do so,” Freeland added.
The Canadian government has said that the helicopter deal would support about 1,000 jobs in the Montreal area.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said that he was disappointed with word of the canceled contract, in particular for employees who he said must be worried at the news.