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Philippines says Canada helicopters 'not for attack'


AFP
MANILA
THE Philippine military on Thursday denied it planned to use 16 Bell helicopters bought from Canada as attack aircraft against local insurgents, following reports Ottawa was reviewing the deal.
Canadian media had reported overnight Wednesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government was reconsidering the sale over fears the aircraft would be used in internal security operations, just hours after both governments had announced it in public.
"They must not politicise the acquisition,"said Major-General Restituto Padilla, the deputy chief of staff for plans and programmes of the Philippine armed forces, on Thursday.
"You must understand that these are utility helicopters, not attack helicopters,"Padilla told AFP.
According to the Philippine defence department, the deal was signed with trade promotion outfit Canadian Commercial Corp last December, shortly after Trudeau clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte during a Manila visit over Philippine drug war killings.
The Philippines employs attack helicopters and planes to support ground troops battling militants in the Muslim south, as well as against communist guerrillas in other parts of the mainly Catholic Asian nation.
A Philippine defence department spokesman told AFP on Wednesday its air force would use the Bell 412EPI aircraft, worth US$234.8 million, for disaster response and humanitarian missions, but also for"anti-terrorism".
However, Padilla said Oon Thursday this did not mean they would be used as"attack helicopters".

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