14:18 GMT +323 March 2018
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    Pilots arrive with two FA-50PH aircraft at Clark Air Base at Angeles city, Pampanga province, north of Manila on November 28, 2015.

    Philippines Scores First New Fighter Jets in a Decade

    © REUTERS/ Romeo Ranoco
    Asia & Pacific
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    The Philippines on Monday received two Korean-made fighter jets as it strengthens its underfunded military in the midst of an escalating territorial dispute with China.

    The Philippines bought 12 FA-50s from Korea Aerospace Industries for 18.9 billion pesos ($402 million), Reuters reported. The 10 other jets will be delivered in batches through 2017. Weapons for the aircraft will be purchased later.

    The jets are the country's first supersonic combat aircraft in 10 years. The military decommissioned its last fleet of supersonic combat aircraft, the F-5, in 2005, Reuters reported.

    A lack of funds delayed for several years a military modernization program that included plans for the purchase of fighter jets and naval frigates.

    However, territorial spats with China over islands in the South China Sea have escalated and resulted in the Chinese seizure of a disputed shoal in 2012, prompting the military to scramble to acquire new navy ships and air force planes with the help of the United States, the Philippines' longtime defense treaty ally, Reuters reported.

    Last week, President Benigno Aquino III authorized the acquisition of 44 billion pesos ($936 million) worth of military hardware, including two frigates, anti-submarine helicopters and amphibious assault vehicles for the navy, and long-range patrol aircraft, munitions for the FA-50s and surveillance radar for the air force, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo told Reuters.

    The new ships, aircraft and military equipment were expected to be purchased from this year up to 2018, according to Manalo.

    Still, the Philippines has ruled out a military solution to the territorial conflicts. In January 2013, the Philippines brought its disputes with China before an international tribunal in The Hague.

    It said it expects to hand down a decision next year on several issues raised by the Philippines, including the validity of China's sweeping territorial claims under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Reuters reported.

    fighter jet, territorial dispute, Benigno Aquino, South China Sea, China
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