Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte cancels Canada Bell helicopter deal

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"We respect the stand of Canada", he said during a media briefing Friday morning.

The Filipino politician made the statement after Canada ordered a review of the multi-billion dollar deal.

They say there is evidence the Philippine military has been committing human-rights abuses while fighting Islamist militants on the southern island of Mindanao and in a war against communist rebels in other parts of the country.

Ottawa said Thursday that the deal was under review due to concerns over the human rights record of Duterte, the subject of a complaint in the International Criminal Court over the alleged "mass murder" of thousands of Filipino drug suspects.

The Filipino military also uses derivations of the Bell-UH-1H helicopter, which first saw service for the USA military in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s.

Following the Canadian government's announcement that it is now reviewing its sale to the Philippine government of 16 Bell helicopters, Roque said: "If they don't want to sell, we may consider the prospect of procuring them from other sources".

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".

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The television network also said it did not believe there was a safe enviornment for its journalists to report freely and independently.

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

"They are not attack or close support aircraft", he said. "We are neutral", Duterte said, without making clear if he was referring to Canada or the USA, his country's treaty ally, or both.

In November, Mr Trudeau raised the issue of human rights - and the ire of Mr Duterte - while in the Philippines for the Asean summit.

The president later suggested he took Mr Trudeau's remarks as a "personal and official insult".

Canada announced an official review of the deal, to make sure the helicopters would not be used for counterinsurgency operations.

It is also not the first time a Canadian deal has been scrutinised over human rights concerns.

Neither the Canadian Commercial Corporation nor Global Affairs Canada responded to questions about whether the government conducted a human-rights assessment before approving the most recent helicopter sale.

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