MANILA, Philippines >> President Benigno Aquino III said Monday that the Philippines won’t back down in a South China Sea dispute with China and that his country’s military will soon get dozens of new aircraft and ships for maritime defense.
Aquino announced in his annual state of the nation address that more than 40 military aircraft — including attack helicopters and two newly refurbished C-130 cargo planes — and other weapons would be delivered in the next two years to bolster Philippine military muscle amid renewed territorial tensions in the South China Sea.
A second former U.S. Coast Guard cutter is to arrive soon from the United States, following a refurbished cutter that was relaunched by the Philippine navy last year as its largest and most modern warship.
Washington has also provided $30 million to strengthen the Philippine military in addition to helping establish a national coast watch center to help protect the country’s 36,000-kilometer (22,370-mile) coastline, Aquino said.
But he stressed that the Philippines hopes to forge a peaceful solution that will be acceptable to China.
A standoff erupted in April between Chinese and Philippine ships at Scarborough Shoal, which both countries claim. The territory is called Huangyan Island in China and Bajo de Masinloc in the Philippines. Aquino withdrew his country’s ships from the area last month as tensions with Beijing escalated, but Chinese government ships have stayed.
Some Philippine lawmakers have suggested that the Aquino administration tone down its rhetoric and quietly negotiate a compromise with China. A senator has described the lopsided feud as a clash between a mosquito and a dragon.