$850m arms buys to upgrade Philippine military

$850m arms buys to upgrade Philippine military

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino has unveiled new arms purchases worth at least 30 billion pesos (S$850 million) to modernise the Philippine military amid recent skirmishes with China in the South China Sea.

In a speech on Sunday before graduating cadets of the Philippine Military Academy, Mr Aquino announced that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would receive 63,000 new firearms to replace the Vietnam War-era M16 and M14 rifles that most of its soldiers are still using.

The Philippine military also has in its arsenal newer versions of the M16, the M4 carbine and Steyr Aug assault rifle, but these are mostly reserved for special forces units.

"Look at the rifles our soldiers use. Most of them were used during the Vietnam War. The good news: we expect 63,000 new rifles for our Armed Forces in the coming months," said Mr Aquino.

He said the country is also purchasing 12 FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea, eight combat utility helicopters and two anti-submarine helicopters.

The 12 FA-50s, light attack aircraft costing 18.9 billion pesos, should be in service next year.

These purchases are part of the AFP's 15-year modernisation programme that started in 2012.

The Philippines has so far spent 41.2 billion pesos on 36 modernisation projects since 2012, and it has earmarked another 40 billion pesos till 2017.

The modernisation programme is being spurred largely by increasing tension between Manila and Beijing in recent years over their territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea, which has seen increasing skirmishes between the two sides.

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