Philippines is planning a 25 percent hike in its
defense budget next year, mainly to bolster its claims in the disputed South China Sea, officials said Tuesday.
The proposed 2016 national budget, which President Benigno Aquino is to present to parliament for approval on Monday, would reserve a record 25 billion pesos (US $552 million) for defense spending.
Funds would be used to acquire navy frigates and patrol aircraft, budget and defense officials told AFP.
"We need to protect what is clearly within our territorial jurisdiction," Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said, when asked if the increase was due to the
Philippines' maritime row with . China
"Certainly, we need to at least be able to effectively monitor the developments in the area, particularly those in disputed zones," he added.
Under the 3 trillion peso budget bill, defense spending would be up from a 20 billion peso military budget last year and five times bigger than in 2013, the officials said.
The proposed 2016 defense budget is part of a five-year, 75 billion peso military modernization program approved by Aquino in 2013, Abad said.
The amount would still be dwarfed by
which claims most of the South China Sea,
including areas close to the shores of its Asian neighbors. budgeted
US $142.9 billion for its military this year. Beijing
One of the region's most poorly equipped, the Philippine military relies on half-century-old ships and aircraft keeping watch over the
China Sea, where tensions have flared recently.
The Philippines is catching up on military modernization after spending was held back to just 5 billion pesos in 2013 as the government shifted resources to recovery from Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the country that year leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.
The Philippine military's mission to protect the country's territory is complicated by long-running communist and Muslim insurgencies that force it to devote troops and equipment for internal security.
China has gone on an island-building frenzy to
reinforce its claims on South China Sea reefs and waters, the has
set repairs on a crumbling World War II ship that serves as its lonely outpost
The BRP Sierra Madre, emblematic of the Philippine military, was deliberately grounded on Second Thomas Shoal in 1995 in a desperate move to check
in the Spratly islands. China
The South China Sea chain is also disputed in whole or in part by
Malaysia, Taiwan and . Vietnam
"This budget will allow us more latitude in acquiring new assets for the Armed Forces of the
Defense Department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said. "We are pushing
hard on modernization and we will need all the help we can get.... This
includes the purchase of frigates and patrol aircraft." Philippines
Two of 12 fighter jets that the
had bought from
are expected to be delivered as early as November, he said. South Korea
A United Nations-backed tribunal is expected to decide in months whether it has jurisdiction over a Philippine petition to declare
's claims as illegal. China