MANILA - The Philippine army is getting a much-needed upgrade with the arrival next month of around 27,000 new M-4 automatic rifles, part of a plan to modernise the military amid growing tensions in the South China Sea and a festering communist insurgency at home.
Lieutenant-Colonel Noel Detoyato, the army's spokesman, announced on Saturday that the M-4s - a shorter and lighter variant of the M-16A2 assault rifle - would arrive on July 19, replacing the Vietnam-era M16As and M14s most Filipino soldiers are still using.
The new rifles are part of 63,000 M-4s worth about 2.4 billion pesos (S$63.4 million) that the Philippines has ordered to modernise its military, one of the least capable in Asia to deal with external threats.
The Philippines is locked in an increasingly bitter conflict with China, which has started building island fortresses in the Spratlys - a chain of reefs, atolls and islets - in the South China Sea just west of the Philippines' coastlines.
On Thursday, the Philippine airforce announced that eight armed versions of the Agusta Westlands AW-109s would arrive in the third quarter of the year, and 12 F/A50 light combat aircraft would be in service next year.