02/06/2018 11:04 EST | Updated 02/06/2018 12:01 EST

Human-rights concerns loom over sale of Canadian helicopters to the Philippines

OTTAWA — The Canadian government is facilitating the sale of 16 helicopters to the Philippine military, which human rights groups have accused of killing civilians and committing other atrocities while waging a war on two rebel groups.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation, whose role includes selling military goods to other countries on behalf of the government, says the Philippines agreed to buy the Canadian-made Bell helicopters at the end of December.

While the Crown corporation would not reveal any other details about the deal, citing commercial confidentiality, reports say the Philippine government had set aside nearly $300 million for the purchase.

And while the deal represents another win for the Canadian defence industry following the sale of eight other helicopters to the Southeast Asian country in 2015, it has also sparked concerns from human-rights groups.

They say there is evidence that the Philippine military has committed numerous human-rights abuses while fighting Islamist militants and communist rebels in the country, and want a suspension of military sales.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also raised concerns about human-rights abuses during a visit to the country in November, specifically those committed as part of the Philippine president's deadly crackdown on illegal drugs.

Neither the Canadian Commercial Corporation nor Global Affairs Canada responded to questions about whether the government conducted a human-rights assessment before approving the most recent helicopter sale.