12:00 AM, December 21, 2011
The Philippines wants to acquire F-16 fighter jets from the United States as part of stepped up efforts to defend the archipelago, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Dec. 21. The nation lagged behind in protecting its territory, del Rosario said, with air cover next on Manila's wish list after it bought a refurbished U.S. Coast Guard vessel this year with plans to acquire two other similar vessels. Chances were "high" that Manila would acquire the fighter planes, but del Rosario did not reveal further details. China has caused disquiet in Washington and Asian capitals with its claim to all of the South China Sea, a region that encompasses vital shipping lanes and is believed to sit atop vast oil and mineral reserves. "We are upgrading the capacity of our armed forces for territorial defense. I think we are behind the curve" in terms of military capability in Asia, del Rosario told reporters.