Two newly acquired FA-50PH fighter jets perform a fly-by during the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 80th anniversary celebration / Getty Images/Noel Celis

President Benigno Aquino III vowed to leave behind a more stronger and more capable armed forces to defend the country’s sovereignty amid the maritime challenges in the West Philippine Sea when he leaves office next year.

Aquino, who is ineligible to run in the upcoming elections, promised to strengthen the miltary by spending about 83.90 billion pesos ($1.77 billion) until 2017 as China asserts its claims to almost all of the islands and surrounding waters in the South China Sea.

“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.”

Aquino didn’t mention the South China Sea disputes but the equipments are designated by the military to defend Philippine territorial rights, which China has been violating since started building artificial islands in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

“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 sea-lift vessel will be delivered next year, while the Israeli-made radar will be completed by 2017 which is the year that all the fighter jets from Korea will be delivered.

Aquino said that the United States and Japan were the ones helping the Philippines to boost its capability, as countries surrounding the South China Sea have also increasing arms spending amid tensions in the South China Sea.

He said that since 2010 the Philippines has already spent 56.79 billion pesos, by acquiring combat helicopters from Italy and a squadron of fighter jets from South Korea. US also transferred transport planes and two former coast guard cutters to the Philippines.

The Philippine will be spending 998 billion pesos by acquiring submarines, frigates,  advance missile system and radars to par with its Southeast Asian neighbor, in a 15-year modernization plan. -John Esconde

Philippines Armed Forces celebrate 80th anniversary, in pictures

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