Manila to modernise military

MANILA • The Philippines is proposing to spend a record 25 billion pesos (S$756 million) next year to buy frigates, surveillance planes and radar to improve surveillance and detection in the disputed South China Sea, officials said yesterday.

The funds to modernise the military are part of President Benigno Aquino's 3-trillion-peso Budget Bill in 2016, his last year in office.

He is not eligible to run for a second term.

"In 2016, our proposal to Congress is 25 billion pesos for the modernisation programme," Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad told Reuters, saying this would be the highest spending for military modernisation in two decades.

He said the Budget proposal is 15.1 per cent more than the current appropriation of 2.606 trillion pesos. About 80 per cent of the proposed government spending "will be eaten up by the forward estimates or the cost of ongoing programmes and projects", he added.

The government's proposed Budget would be submitted to Congress next week after the President delivers his last State of the Nation Address on Monday.

A senior military general told Reuters the funds would be used to acquire two frigates, two twin-engine long-range patrol aircraft and three aerial surveillance radars.

The rest of the money would be for annual amortisation of 12 FA50 light fighters ordered from South Korea. Two planes are due for delivery in December.

The Philippines, which has one of the region's weakest militaries, has been improving defence ties with its close ally the United States. Last week, it said it would reopen a US naval base that was closed more than 20 years ago, stationing its own military hardware at Subic Bay facing the South China Sea.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2015, with the headline 'Manila to modernise military'. Print Edition | Subscribe