MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines may turn to non-Western defense manufacturers, including China and Russia, to acquire 16 helicopters after it had to scrap a $233 million deal with Canada, its defense minister said on Monday.
Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s trade minister, has ordered a review of the contract over concerns about Manila’s intended use for the helicopters.
“We are looking at Korea, Russia, China, Turkey and other countries for the medium-lift helicopters in lieu of the Bell 412EPI,” Philippines’ Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana told reporters.
“We’re back to square one in the procurement process.”
It took about two years to negotiate the deal. The contract for the 16 combat utility helicopters was a repeat order, he said, after Canada delivered eight Bell 412 helicopters worth 4.8 billion pesos ($92.8 million) in 2014.
Lorenzana signed the Canadian helicopter deal last week at the Singapore Air Show last week, but Canada ordered a review after learning the aircraft would be used in anti-rebel operations.
“I think there is malice in the way it is being raised,” Lorenzana told reporters.
“It is not an attack helicopter but a medium-lift, meaning for transport of personnel and supplies. We are not asking these for free but we’re buying them. We do not have to justify how we will use these equipment.”
President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the deal on Friday night because of conditions imposed by Canada, telling his generals not to buy from the United States and Canada because of conditions imposed on arms sales.
Air Force officials said Russia’s Kamov and China’s Z-series helicopters are comparable models to Bell’s 412 medium lift. South Korean’s Surions are also an option.
($1 = 51.7300 Philippine pesos)
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty & Simon Cameron-Moore)