Philippines seeks 12 F-16 fighter jets from US

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines will seek a squadron of F-16 fighter jets and a third coast guard ship from longtime ally Washington amid simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Wednesday that 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 has provided a Coast Guard cutter and agreed to send another one next year to the Philippines, which is locked in territorial disputes with China and four other governments.

The Philippine military, one of Asia's weakest, only has about six aging fighter jets. It relaunched the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter it acquired from Washington as the local navy's biggest and most modern warship in an austere ceremony led by President Benigno Aquino III last week.

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