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Manila's President Aquino says military upgrade not aimed at neighbours

Published on Jul 17, 2014 7:50 PM
 
 Philippine President Benigno Aquino addresses the nation in a televised speech at Malacanang Palace in Manila on July 14, 2014. Philippine President Benigno Aquino told his country's neighbours on Thursday, July 17, 2014 that efforts to modernise the military were not aimed at them but rather at strengthening national defence capabilities and tackling disasters. -- PHOTO: AFP 

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino told his country's neighbours on Thursday that efforts to modernise the military were not aimed at them but rather at strengthening national defence capabilities and tackling disasters.

Mr Aquino has allocated 75 billion pesos (S$2.1 billion) over five years to upgrade maritime security operations and humanitarian response, buying frigates, fighter-trainers and anti-submarine helicopters.

The Philippines is locked in a dispute with China over the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea and ships from the two countries have been engaged in a long series of cat-and-mouse confrontations. Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have competing claims in the area believed to be rich in oil-and-gas deposits and marine resources.

The Philippines has one of the weakest militaries in the region, long focused on fighting twin insurgencies from Maoist rebels and Muslim separatists. It operates a fleet of World War Two-vintage ships and Vietnam War-era helicopters and planes. "Lest anyone accuse us of shifting to a more militaristic position, I must emphasise: our efforts seek to modernise the capabilities of our security sector to address the needs in human disaster response arenas and for our internal defence," Mr Aquino told a security exhibition. "None of these actions are meant to increase tensions in the region. Rather, they are meant to address our domestic problems and issues."

 
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