THE Philippines issued a notice to Canada on Tuesday officially terminating the contract for the delivery of 16 units of Bell helicopters for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), according to the Department of National Defense (DND).
In a statement, DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong said the notice was issued to the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), one of the signatories of the contract for the procurement of the combat utility helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
Andolong said the issuance of the cancellation notice was in compliance with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte last week and “pursuant” to the Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Law, authorizing the termination “for the convenience of the government.”
On Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines could look to South Korea, China and Russia for the purchase of helicopters that have similar capabilities as Bell.
Duterte’s remarks stemmed from the statement by Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, saying that Canada has ordered a review of the deal involving CCC, Bell helicopters and DND.
The review of the contract stemmed from a Reuters report, which said that the military would also use the brand new choppers for its operations against the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
In the same report, Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP deputy chief of staff for plans, clarified that the choppers would be used for search and rescue, and in ferrying wounded soldiers from the ground.
Lorenzana echoed Padilla, saying that while the helicopters were attack helicopters, they were medium-lift aircraft.
Andolong said the helicopters would only be used for transportation and that Manila did not owe Ottawa any explanation.
“While the combat utility helicopters being purchased are primarily for the purpose of transporting personnel and supplies, the Department believes that it does not owe the Canadian government any justification for an outright purchase of equipment from a privately-owned company,” he said.
“The Department will continue to pursue the [AFP] modernization program and will look into procuring the combat utility helicopters from other countries in lieu of the Bell 412 [choppers],” Andolong added. DEMPSEY REYES