Philippines eyes record P25B defense spending for 2016

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(Reuters) – The Philippines is proposing to spend a record P25 billion ($552 million) in 2016 to purchase frigates, surveillance planes, and radar equipment to improve surveillance and detection in the disputed West Philippine Sea, officials said on Monday (July 20).

The funds to modernize the military are part of the P3 trillion ($66.24 billion) budget bill of President Benigno Aquino III for 2016, his last year in office. Aquino is no longer eligible to run for a second term.

The budget proposal is 15.1% more than the current appropriation of P2.606 trillion, according to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

He said that the about 80% of the proposed government spending "will be eaten up by the forward estimates or the cost of ongoing programs and projects."

"In 2016, our proposal to Congress is P25 billion for the modernization program," Abad told Reuters, saying this would be the highest-ever spending for military modernization in two decades.

Abad said the government's proposed budget, including the defense spending plan, would be submitted to Congress next week after the president delivers his last State of the Nation Address on July 27.

A senior military general, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to media, told Reuters the funds would be used to acquire two frigates, two twin-engine long range patrol aircraft, and three aerial surveillance radars.

The rest of the money would be for annual amortization of 12 FA50 light fighters ordered from South Korea. Two planes are due for delivery this December.