DEFENSE Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on Wednesday defended a military plan to buy P13 billion worth of attack helicopters in the fight against Maoist rebels amid a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Leftist groups have criticized the plan, saying the money is better spent in the government’s anti-COVID-19 response.

Mr. Lorenzana told an online news briefing communist rebels should end their armed struggle so the government would stop buying weapons.

He said talks on the arms deal started three or four years ago, but the US State Department approved the sale only in April.

Mr. Lorenzana said the deal was for the purchase of six attack helicopters worth $2 billion, and the government only has a P13-billion budget now.

“If we were to buy attack helicopters for that price, we can only buy one or two,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez