MANILA: The Philippines has bought 16 new Bell helicopters from Canada for about $235 million (Dh863 million) to strengthen its fight against Islamist militants and other domestic insurgencies, defence officials said Wednesday.
The two governments announced the deal less than three months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clashed with host President Rodrigo Duterte over Philippine drug war killings, on the sidelines of a Manila summit.
The Philippine defence department signed the 12-billion-peso (Dh863 million; $234.8 million) Bell 412EPI deal with the state-run Canadian Commercial Corp, with deliveries set to start in nine months, ministry spokesman Arsenio Andolong told AFP.
“These are multi-purpose aircraft for anti-terrorism as well as HADR,” he said, using military lingo that refers to disaster response and humanitarian missions.
Philippine troops and police, beset by Islamist and communist insurgencies, fought a five-month battle last year against Islamic State group supporters in the southern city of Marawi.
It is also faced with rising tensions over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea and has been upgrading its navy and air force in recent years. The country is also regularly battered by typhoons.
“These (helicopters) are a real benefit to Filipinos,” Canadian ambassador John Holmes said on the mission’s Facebook page, adding it would boost Manila’s “search and rescue and disaster relief capabilities”.
The Philippine defence department acquired eight of the same Bell aircraft model in 2015, which it said went mostly to an air force unit assigned with providing air transport for the Philippine president.
The Filipino military also uses derivations of the Bell-UH-1H helicopter, which first saw service for the US military in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s.
The two governments announced the deal less than three months after Duterte and Trudeau clashed.
Trudeau said during the November summit that he 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”, adding he would only answer to his Filipino electorate.
The Philippine government says police only shot the suspects in self-defence and rejects human rights monitors’ description of the crackdown as a crime against humanity.