The Philippine Navy is planning to lease five retired Japanese training aircraft for patrolling missions in the disputed South China Sea.
According to a Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, the Philippines is eyeing Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force Beechcraft TC-90 aircraft.
Japan’s Defense Minister Gen Nakatani is expected to visit the Philippines soon to finalize the official agreement on the lease.
The aircraft currently used by the Philippine Navy for air patrol missions have a short range with a radius of 300 kilometers, The Philippine Star reported citing the newspaper. The TC-90 aircraft has a radius of action twice of those in the Philippine Navy and will be able to cover most of the islands in the Spratly Group.
However, the Japanese trainer planes are not equipped with radars and other devices and will only be used for visual monitoring over the Spratly Islands.
The lease of the aircraft will be based on the Three Principles of Transfer on Defense Equipment and Technology, which allows arms exports.
The Philippines is reported to spend millions annually for the lease of the Japanese aircraft.
"While Manila has been asking Tokyo to provide the aircraft as cheaply as possible, it is difficult for Japan to offer national property such as TC-90 aircraft to other countries for free under current law," the Japanese news outlet reported.
Japan is also expected to provide patrol vessels to the Philippines and Vietnam as part of its support for Southeast Asian countries lagging behind China in terms of defense equipment.
The Japanese and the Philippine governments recently signed an agreement for the transfer of defense equipment and technology from Tokyo to Manila.