Philippines vows stronger military to back South China Sea claim


CLARK FIELD, Philippines, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino vowed on Monday to leave behind a stronger and a more capable armed forces to face maritime challenges in the South China Sea when he leaves office next year.

Aquino, ineligible to run for re-election under the constitution, promised to spend about 83.90 billion pesos ($1.77 billion) in a five-year period until 2017 to strengthen the military as China asserts its claims to most of the waters.

The spending plan was only approved this year, meaning the bulk of that money will be spent in coming months.

“We’re planning to acquire new frigates, strategic sealift vessels, long-range patrol and close air support aircraft and other equipment,” Aquino said at the 80th anniversary of the armed forces.
He did not mention the South China Sea dispute specifically, but the equipment has been earmarked by the military to defend Philippine territorial rights.

“I have personally witnessed how the military grew stronger and more effective in preserving peace and stability, the key in building confidence in the Philippines.”

The strategic sealift vessel, being built in an Indonesian shipyard, will be delivered early next year and the Israeli-made radar will be completed by 2017, the same time all the fighters from South Korea are delivered.
He said the United States and Japan were helping develop capacity and capability as “some countries” in Asia have been increasing defence spending amid rising tension in the South China Sea.
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