MANILA • The Philippines is to lease from Japan five aircraft to help patrol the disputed South China Sea, President Benigno Aquino has announced, as China expands its military presence in the region.
The Philippine military, for decades preoccupied with domestic insurgencies, has been shifting its focus to territorial defence, allocating 83 billion pesos (S$2.4 billion) until 2017 to upgrade its air force and navy. Allies the United States and South Korea have already offered help to bolster air capabilities and Mr Aquino announced the arrival this year of two refurbished C-130 transport planes from the US.
"We are also leasing from Japan five TC-90 training aircraft to assist our navy in patrolling our territories, particularly in the West Philippine Sea," he said yesterday at an airbase south of Manila, referring to the Spratly islands in the South China Sea. He did not say when the Japanese aircraft would arrive.
South Korea has supplied two light fighters and will give 10 more up to 2017, he said, adding that his government would award contracts for six close air support and two long-range patrol planes. Three air surveillance radars are also due to be installed.
The Philippines has made the modernisation of its air and naval forces a priority as China deploys missiles and fighters on a number of artificial islands in the South China Sea. The two sides have rival claims in the waters and Manila has taken Beijing to international court over China's claims.