BY DEMPSEY REYES, The Manila Times
The Philippines can look for different country sources that can supply choppers similar to those from a Canadian manufacturer whose P12-billion contract with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had been ordered terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a text message, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Sunday said Russia, China, South Korea, Turkey and India can be the new sources for choppers with capabilities similar to the Bell 412 EPI from Bell Helicopter.
On Friday night, Duterte ordered the AFP to scrap the multibillion deal with Bell Helicopter and Canadian Commercial Corp. (CCC).
His order stemmed from reports that the Canadian government had ordered a review of the helicopter contract after Reuters said the Bell choppers will be used in operations against the communist New People’s Army.
“Are there other suppliers if the Canada deal will not push through? Yes, there are,” Lorenzana said.
“They [Canada] can think of anything they want to. For me, I maintain that they should not meddle since we bought [the helicopters]from them, not asked for [them]. One more thing, these are not attack helicopters but medium-lift [helicopters],” he added.
Last week, Arsenio Andolong, spokesman for the Defense department, said Canada should reconsider its decision to review the contract, adding that human rights violations allegedly committed by the military should be verified first.
On December 29 last year, Lorenzana and representatives of Bell Helicopter and CCC signed the contract for the purchase of the helicopters that will be used by the Philippine Air Force for humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations and for ferrying injured soldiers from the battlefield.
Delivery of the first batch of Bell helicopters had been expected by the first quarter of 2019.
Purchase of these helicopters is part of the AFP modernization program.