The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) expressed its opposition to the US government’s possible sale of military helicopter packages amounting to US$450 million to $1.5 billion to the Philippines. The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) and the Human Rights Watch have earlier opposed the arms deal and urged the US State Congress to prevent the possible trade for fear that it would result to the escalation of human rights violations.

“The Duterte government should not even think about purchasing attack helicopters in this time of crisis.  Prioritizing war and killing machines while we are battling COVID-19 is inappropriate and insensitive. The government should wisely use its limited resources to serve millions of Filipinos who are suffering from hunger and unemployment,” Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

Soriano added, “The arms procurement will be absurd as the government is even seeking $1 billion loan for coronavirus response. That money should be used instead to augment the budget for procurement of farmers’ produce or provide cash assistance and production subsidy to farmers.”

The peasant women group noted that if used for National Food Authority’s palay procurement, that amount could buy 1.12MMT to 3.75MMT palay at P20 per kilo equivalent to 675,000MT to 2.25MMT of rice. The government could also provide P10,000 cash assistance for farmers which could serve 2.25 million to 7.5 million. It could also reach 1.5 million to 5 million farmers if each farmer is given P15,000 production subsidy.

Last April 30, the US State Department has announced the potential sale of six AH-1Z Viper helicopters worth US$450 million or six AH-64E Apache helicopters worth US$1.5 billion, both with other equipment and parts included. The helicopter packages will be sold under the US Foreign Military Sales Program.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a statement that the proposed transaction “will assist the Philippines in developing and maintaining strong self-defense, counterterrorism and critical infrastructure protection capabilities.”

“The Duterte government should expect protests and face the people’s disdain if it pushes through with the trade,” Soriano ended. ###

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