Armed Forces Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista looks at a miniature model of an FA-50 fighter jet after the signing of an agreement between the Department of National Defense and Korea Aerospace Industries on Friday. Photo by Noel Celis, Agence France-Presse
MANILA - The Philippines on Friday signed agreements to buy USD 528 million worth of military aircraft from South Korea and Canada amid ongoing territorial disputes with China.
"After more than four decades of stagnancy in its dream of improving its capability, our air force has found a promise of new life with the realisation of our (military) modernization program," Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.
Korea Aerospace Industries will deliver 12 FA-50 jets worth P18.9 billion (USD 421.12 million) in just over three years under a contract agreed by Philippine defense officials and South Korean government representatives.
The Southeast Asian country also completed a P4.8 billion contract with Canadian Commercial Corp. and Canada's Bell Helicopters to build eight helicopters for the military.
The twin deals are part of the Philippines' P75-billion effort to upgrade its armed forces, particularly units tasked with patrolling disputed territory in the South China Sea.
These units are dwarfed by those of neighboring China, which claims most of the area, including waters and islets much closer to the Philippines.
China said its coastguard on March 9 blocked two Philippine-flagged vessels approaching Second Thomas Shoal, which is guarded by a small group of Filipino marines but is also claimed by Beijing, the latest in a string of such confrontations.
Under the military upgrade program, President Benigno Aquino's government has also acquired two refurbished frigates from the US coastguard.