Purchase Comes Amid Territorial Dispute With China
The Philippine government plans to acquire three AgustaWestland AW 109 Power helicopters for its navy as part of a modernization program it hopes will bolster its position in a territorial dispute with China.
In a statement, Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was quoted as saying "The acquisition of these naval helicopters is one concrete step towards the fulfilment of our goal to modernize the Philippine Navy and our armed forces in general."
The French news service AFP reports that the Philippines and China have been in a standoff over territory in the South China Sea since April. The disputed territory includes a group of islets known as Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippine government says is within its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone. China claims nearly all of the waters in the South China Sea, even those close to neighboring countries and including the shoal.
Gazmin said that acquiring the helicopters is intended to "secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory." The cost of the aircraft was placed at about $32.5 million. They will be acquired under an emergency procurement program.