Dec 122014

President Benigno Aquino III said that China tried to pressure South Korea to not sell a squadron of brand new FA-50 fighter jets to the Philippines worth P18.9 billion, a report from GMA News TV’s “State of the Nation” program said Friday.

But Aquino, after giving the statement during his visit to Busan, South Korea for the 25th ASEAN Republic of Korea commemorative summit, did not elaborate further.

The purchase is part of a five-year, 75 billion-pesos ($1.68 billion) modernization program, which is seen to improve the Philippines’ capability to defend its maritime borders against the creeping expansion of China in the South China Sea. But defense officials in February denied that the purchase is specifically in response to the tensions between the two countries.

The Philippines is also currently in the middle of an arbitration case with China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which it filed in January 2013.

During his visit, Aquino inspected the prototype models of the lead-in fighter jets, which are said to be at par with America’s F16 fighter planes.

“The last time kasi we had fighters in the inventory that was in 2005. So by next year isang dekada na ang dumaan,” Aquino said.

The first batch of fighter jets will be delivered to the Philippines in 2015 while the final batch will be delivered in 2017 for a total of 12 jets. The government signed the deal with Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd. last March. Andrei Medina/JST, GMA News

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