Philippines Plans $35 Billion Defense Upgrade in Sea Claims Push

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(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines plans to spend up to 2 trillion pesos ($35 billion) over the next decade to upgrade its military capabilities as the country boosts its campaign to safeguard its claims in the South China Sea.

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved the modernization plan aimed at bolstering the military’s naval, aerial, surveillance and other assets, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Colonel Francel Margareth Padilla said in a mobile-phone message on Thursday.

“These enhancements will contribute to strengthening our defense capabilities as we transition from internal security operations to territorial defense,” Padilla said. Armed Forces chief Romeo Brawner Jr. last month said the military was looking to acquire more ships, aircraft and radars under its modernization program.

The defense spending plan is the final stage of a three-phase modernization initiative that began in 2013 and comes as the Southeast Asian nation increasingly asserts its claims in the disputed waters where China lays expansive claims.

Marcos has ordered the military to shift to external defense amid maritime tensions with Beijing in the resource-rich waterway, while also strengthening security ties with countries like the US, Japan, Australia, Canada and UK.

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