Philippines signs deal to buy 12 fighter-trainer jets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 11:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 11:21pm

The Philippines has signed a deal to buy 12 fighter-trainer planes to beef up its territorial defences.

Speaking at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City, President Benigno Aquino said that bidding for the procurement of two twin-engine naval antisubmarine helicopters was also set to begin.

"Our soldiers are also already making use of the modern ships, eight Sokol combat utility helicopters, three navy helicopters, and other vehicles we have turned over," Aquino told graduates of the academy.

"On top of this, we have closed our purchase of 12 lead-in fighter-trainer aircraft for territorial defence operations," he said. The trainer aircraft will be supplied by a South Korean firm.

"We also count among our targets for 2016 an additional eight combat utility helicopters that can provide, among others, search and rescue and disaster relief missions," he said.

The Philippine military, one of the weakest in Asia, has gone shopping to modernise its ageing equipment, in the face of China's bid to gain control of more features in the South China Sea.

To help establish "a minimum credible defence posture", the Philippines has harnessed and expanded its defence co-operation with strategic partners such as the US and Japan.

China's occupation of Scarborough Shoal, a contested shoal north of the Spratly Islands, in 2012 "constituted the first instance of a blatant change in the status quo of a maritime feature in the South China Sea since 1995 when China seized control of Mischief Reef", according to a Philippine security official.

The reef, a submerged bank about 240 kilometres off Palawan, is now an active naval base, the military said.