Filipino youth group asks Ottawa to quash Canada-PH helicopter deal

Community News & Features Feb 9, 2018 at 4:32 pm
Minister Chrystia Freeland: Prepared to block the export if necessary.

Minister Chrystia Freeland:
Prepared to block the export if necessary.

Anakbayan-Canada, a Filipino youth group, was among the numerous organizations who strongly opposed the recently announced $223 million chopper deal between the Canadian and Philippine governments.

In a press statement, Anakbayan strongly denounced the deal, which involves the acquisition of sixteen combat helicopters by the Philippines from Canada “will only intensify the violence against the Indigenous and peasant communities “ in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, a few days following the announcement of the deal amidst protests aired in traditional and social media, the Canadian federal government ordered a review of “Canada’s deal to sell helicopters to the Philippine military amid rising concerns about supplying armed forces that have been accused of unlawful killings in the Asian country,” accorrding to a report published by in Globe and Mail.

“Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she is prepared to block the export of the aircraft if necessary, and expressed serious misgivings about human-rights violations under the Duterte government in the Philippines….International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters the review was prompted by comments from a Filipino military officer regarding the intended use of these equipment,” the report said
The same report added: “Philippines Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, military chief of plans, told media on Tuesday (Feb. 6), the day that news of the deal was released, that the helicopters “will be used for the military’s internal security operations.”

Ottawa explained it was under the impression that the helicopter will be used for “disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility transport,” as the Philippine military had also said the helicopters might also be used for humanitarian reasons.”

Int’l Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne: Review was prompted by comments.

Int’l Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne: Review was prompted by comments.

Anakbayan, however, asserts: “This is not the first time Ottawa has colluded with Manila. In fact, this unequal relations is to primarily protect Canadian-owned mining companies scattered across the archipelago. Using disaster aid as Canada’s benevolent face, the Philippines purchased eight Quebec-made helicopters to be used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2015. Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) showcased the capabilities of the aircraft when the four pairs went into action in central Philippine island of Iloilo in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan. A year later, a confidential agreement was signed. The deal was brokered by the Canadian Commercial Corporation—a Crown corporation that had boosted arms trade with Saudi Arabia, Colombia and other governments with appalling human rights records.”

“It is evident that Canada’s involvement in Philippine military affairs, under the guise of disaster relief, will contribute to the decline of democracy and the rise of fascism in the Philippines,” alleging that “Canada and Trudeau are directly complicit in the potential deaths of the most vulnerable in Philippine society,” said  Nicole Sudiacal, Anakbayan Ottawa.

She adds, “It is a direct example of their disregard for human rights in the archipelago. With Duterte’s fascist regime increasing in its violence, the Philippine government has been targeting youth and student activists who oppose the degradation of human rights, which includes militarization of Lumad (Indigenous) communities, and the disastrous extrajudicial killings of thousands in Duterte’s unjust drug war.”

“As an organization concerned with people`s rights, Anakbayan-Canada condemns the helicopter deal between Ottawa and Manila. We demand an all-out withdrawal of Canadian financial, moral, political and military support for the US-Duterte regime`s wars against the Filipino people including the so-called war on drugs, martial law in Mindanao, and counterinsurgency. We call on all our member organizations, human rights organizations and peace advocates to stand up for human rights and take action to oppose the murderous deal between Canada and the Philippines, the Anakbayan Canada statement concluded.

Meanhwile, “mainstream Canadian arrms-control advocates question why the Trudeau government is helping equip the military of a country in which death squads have carried out unlawful or unauthorized killings for years – activities that have prompted concern at the highest levels in Ottawa,” the Globe and Mail report added.

Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group that is an agency of the Canadian Council of Churches, said the deal reveals weaknesses in Canada’s arms-control system, it noted.
“The notion that the Philippine military intends to use the helicopters for internal security operations is not at all surprising,” he said. “The comments from the Philippine military about the intended use of the helicopters simply confirm the type of risks involved that a rigorous export controls regime should detect,” Jaramillo reportedly said.