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Philippines want to procure 12 F-16 fighter jets from the US

December 21, 2011 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Philippines would like to procure a squadron of F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday. He and the country's defense chief will meet their U.S. counterparts in Washington next year to discuss the requests.

The Philippines has turned to the U.S., a defense treaty ally, for warships and planes to patrol South China Sea areas it claims.

Del Rosario said the requests for 12 F-16 fighter jets (and a third coast guard cutter) have already been relayed to American officials and their initial response was encouraging.

"We are getting good signals," Del Rosario told reporters. The Philippines wants to build "a minimum credible defense posture and the U.S. has expressed their willingness to help us," del Rosario said.

Washington offered to sell 26 F-16 fighter planes to the Philippines in January 1998. At that time, the Philippines were looking to acquire F-16s to bolster its claim over the Spratly Islands. Washington offered the F-16s which were originally purchased by Pakistan but then embargoed. However, due to the Asian currency crisis, the military expansion plan did not go ahead.

The Philippine military, one of Asia's weakest, only has about six aging S-211 jet trainers. Six years ago they retired there eight F-5 fighters. These 1960s era aircraft were not much of a match for more recent warplanes and were expensive to maintain.

Last month, the US and Indonesia announced the planned transfer and upgrade of two dozen US F-16s to the Indonesian air force.

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