SEVERAL months after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the scrapping of the country’s helicopter deal with Canada, an “entrenched syndicate” in the country’s defense establishment is allegedly still pushing for the consummation of the deal beginning with the “overhaul” of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Philippine Air Force tasked to evaluate the offer of other foreign suppliers.
Worse, informed sources in the local defense industry also claimed that should the syndicate manage to get its way, the deal would have been more disadvantageous to the country and would be a direct affront to the Chief Executive.
“If President Duterte went through the roof over the ‘precondition’ attached by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the Bell 412 combat utility helicopter (CUH) we are supposed to buy for more than P12.5 billion ($233 million) should not be used for combat operation, then we don’t know how he would react if he discovers that among the additional preconditions being eyed by this group is that the choppers would be delivered minus its gunnery capability (provision for board machine guns) and less armor (no bulletproofing) to protect the pilot and the co-pilot),” the sources said, adding:
“Strictly speaking, it’s like we’ll be buying just any other ordinary helicopter -- but with a very expensive price tag.”
It can be recalled that last February, President Duterte directed the DND and the AFP to scuttle the deal with Canada for the supply of the Bell 412 CUH over Trudeau’s attaching his ‘precondition’ on how the helicopters should be used by the Philippines.
The Chief Executive was also incensed by Trudeau’s joining other Western governments in criticizing the Duterte administration’s alleged violation of human rights.
As late as last month, President Duterte has been giving the Canadian leader a mouthful of invectives over the scuttled deal.
In a speech before the Visayas Cluster of the League of Municipalities last August 21, Duterte called Trudeau “corny” for ordering a review of the deal after it was signed over the issue of human rights.
Although the DND is now in the market for other foreign suppliers, such as those from the United States, Russia, Italy, Turkey, France and South Korea, sources said the group remains confident they can still “swing” the deal in favor of the Bell 412 choppers beginning with the ‘overhaul’ of the TWG of the Philippine Air Force.
The sources had also previously warned that as an “alternative” to the Bell chopper deal, the syndicate at the DND is eyeing to supply the ‘Surion’ produced by the Korea Aerospace Industry (KAI), despite the Surion’s documented failures that had already claimed the lives of several military personnel from South Korea.