Manila: The Philippines is planning a 25 per cent hike in its defence budget next year, mainly to bolster its claims in the disputed South China Sea, officials said today.
The proposed 2016 national budget, which President Benigno Aquino is to present to parliament for approval yesterday, would reserve a record 25 billion pesos (USD 552 million) for defence spending.
Funds would be used to acquire navy frigates and patrol aircraft, budget and defence officials told AFP.
"We need to protect what is clearly within our territorial jurisdiction," Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said, when asked if the increase was due to the Philippines' maritime row with China.
"Certainly, we need to at least be able to effectively monitor the developments in the area, particularly those in disputed zones," he added.
Under the three-trillion-peso budget bill, defence spending would be up from a 20-billion-peso military budget last year and five times bigger than in 2013, the officials said.
The proposed 2016 defence budget is part of a five-year, 75-billion-peso military modernisation programme approved by Aquino in 2013, Abad said.
The amount would still be dwarfed by China, which claims most of the South China Sea including areas close to the shores of its Asian neighbours.
Beijing budgeted USD 142.9 billion for its military this year.