The Philippines wants to boost its defence capabilities against China in the South China Sea dispute

Philippines to spend $526m on military aircraft

The Philippines will order new aircraft from South Korean and Canadian companies worth 23.7bn pesos (£319m) to boost its defence capabilities, a senior defence official said on Friday.

The Philippines has embarked on a five-year, 75-billion-peso modernisation programme as tension simmers in the South China Sea. The country is said to fear the Chinese expansion and wants to be able to protect its maritime borders.

Fernando Manalo, undersecretary of defence for finance, munitions, installations and material, said the Philippines would acquire 12 brand-new FA-50 fighter-trainers and eight Bell 412 helicopters under a government-to-government deal.

"This is significant because we need to give our armed forces the minimum capability to perform its mission and responsibility," Manalo told reporters after completing negotiations with the two companies.

Korean Aerospace Industries got the contract for the fighter-trainers worth 18.9 billion pesos while Canadian Commercial Corporation, which is licensed to market Bell helicopters, promised to deliver its first craft next year.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday warned that China was determined to change the status quo in the disputed waters, taking control of the Scarborough Shoal and forcing Manila to remove a transport ship that ran aground in the Second Thomas Shoal.

Last week, China prevented two civilian ships from delivering supplies to troops stationed in the shipwreck in the Second Thomas Shoal.

China claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea's 3.5 million square kilometres of waters. The sea provides 10 per cent of the global fish catch and carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims to the sea.

The Philippines' ill-equipped armed forces are no match for those of China, despite receiving two cutters and coastal radar stations from the United States. The military lost its fighter capability when it mothballed all its F-5A/Bs in the early 2000s.

Manalo said the Philippines will also spend 26bn pesos within a year to acquire two frigates, two strategic sealift and three anti-submarine helicopters.

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