MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Navy said Monday it had bought a large Hamilton-class patrol craft from the United States to help it guard its waters amid tensions over territorial claims, notably with China.
The announcement was made by the new Philippine military chief of staff, Air Force Lieutenant-General Eduardo Oban, as he assumed his post.
"As I speak, Philippine Navy officers are now in the United States... preparing to sail our first Hamilton class navy (vessel) to the Philippines," he said in a speech to troops.
"We shall sustain efforts to modernize our Armed Forces," he added.
Details of the acquisition were not disclosed, but the Navy said in January that acquiring the refurbished, 380-foot (115-meter) vessel was aimed at boosting its border patrol capability.
Monday's announcement came amid fresh tensions between Manila and China over allegations that Beijing's patrol vessels harassed a Philippine oil exploration boat in disputed waters in the South China Sea last week.
After lodging a formal protest, President Benigno Aquino III ordered coast guard escorts for the oil exploration vessel, which was conducting a seismic survey in the Reed Bank, which is close to the disputed Spratly islands.
China has brushed the protest aside, reasserting that the Spratlys, which it calls the Nansha islands, and adjacent waters have always been part of its territory.
The reputedly oil-rich chain are claimed -- in whole or in part -- by China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The new ship will replace the Philippine Navy's flagship, Raja Humabon, a Cannon-class destroyer escort, which is probably one of the world's oldest warships, the Navy has said.
Equipped with a retractable hangar, a helicopter flight deck and powered by a dual engine or gas turbines, the Hamilton is described as a high endurance cutter with close-in weapons systems.
Washington considers the Philippines a major non-NATO military ally and the two countries are bound by a 1951 mutual defense treaty.