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Ill-equipped Philippine military to get 2 of 12 new fighter jets next year to defend territory

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MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine president said Tuesday his country's ill-equipped military will receive its first new fighter jets in nearly a decade next year to help defend the country's territory.

President Benigno Aquino III said two of 12 FA-50 multi-purpose fighters will be delivered by their South Korean manufacturer next year and the rest are expected to follow in the next three years. The Philippines has scrambled to modernize its military, one of Asia's weakest, amid increasingly tense territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Aquino said the Philippines has had no fighter jets for territorial defence since a fleet of F-5 jets was decommissioned in 2005. The anemic air force is being strengthened with the purchase of new assault helicopters, long-range patrol aircraft and C130 cargo planes, he said.

"It's saddening to think about the state of the air force that we inherited: Once regarded as among Asia's strongest, the air force seemed to have failed to take off from decades of anomalies, abuse and neglect," Aquino said in a speech at Clark freeport north of Manila marking the anniversary of the Philippine air force.

Aquino said with the acquisition of the FA-50s, "we can again defend our territory in a more effective way."

The Philippine military signed a contract with Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. in March to buy 12 FA-50s for 18.9 billion pesos ($420 million), the biggest deal so far under a military modernization program that has been repeatedly stalled by a lack of funds.

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