By Genalyn Kabiling
SEOUL – President Duterte reportedly went shopping for military helicopters before concluding his three-day official visit to South Korea Tuesday.
The President, interested in acquiring helicopters from South Korea, was scheduled to make a private visit to a Korean aircraft manufacturer to inspect some defense equipment late Tuesday afternoon.
The visit, which was closed for media coverage, was made after the President attended a Philippine food festival in Seoul. These were the last two activities of the President before he was set to fly back to the country Tuesday night.
Duterte earlier said he was considering the purchase of military aircraft from South Korea after a botched purchase of Bell helicopters from Canada. The Korean Aerospace Industries builds KUH-1 Surion transport utility helicopters.
“Tinitingnan pa ho ng ating Presidente iyong pagbibili ng iba pang mga pang-militar na gamit galing po sa South Korea. Specifically sinabi po ng Presidente na interesado siya sa mga helicopters, dahil hindi po natuloy iyong pagbili natin ng helicopters galing po sa bansang Canada [The President is looking into the purchase of military equipment from South Korea. He mentioned specifically that he is interested in the helicopters because our purchase of helicopters from Canada did not push through],” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said during a press conference in Seoul.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez also confirmed that the President’s visit to the Korean aircraft supplier but could not provide details of Duterte’s preferred type of helicopter.
“I don’t know the details but that’s really up to the DND (Department of Defense) and the President. I think they will visit them this afternoon yet,” he said in the same press briefing when the President wanted a
“I’m not sure, you know, if they favor one type of helicopter or another but definitely we are—I’m sure they are considering supply from Korea,” he added.
Apart from possible helicopter purchase from Korea, Dominguez said there were talks for a possible joint venture on the “manufacturing small arms in the Philippines.” He did not elaborate.
Last February, President Duterte ordered the military to cancel a $233 million agreement to purchase 16 helicopters from Canada after getting annoyed by its human rights concerns. He said the government could shop for military aircraft in other countries that do not impose conditions.
Canada earlier expressed concern about possible human rights violations and insisted the helicopters must be used for non-combat operations.
At the Philippine food festival held at E-Mart headquarters, the President tried some of the Philippine products on display after hitting the gong to mark the festival opening.
Among the Filipino products on showcase were Philippine pineapple, banana, and papaya.