Metro Manila, Philippines – Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez has revealed that there are ‘open discussions’ on Manila’s possible procurement of F-16 fighter jets from Washington.

The diplomat said that should the deal push through, it would be a big boost to the country’s air defense capabilities.

Security officials earlier said the Philippines is trying to build up defense capability, play catch up by modernizing its armed forces, and establish robust presence in the country’s exclusive economic zone particularly in the West Philippine Sea where there is simmering maritime row with China.

“Yung F-16 matagal na nating gusto yan ang ating Air Force hinihintay na nila,” said Romualdez in an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday..

[Translation: Our Air Force has been wanting the F-16 fighter jets for a very long time.]

“It’s a very good aircraft and it’s been proven to be effective in air defense. We are hoping to be able to close a deal on the F-16. It’s still on the table right now,” he added.

The envoy, however, did not expound on the timeline of the possible jet deal. “There are open discussions,” he added.

The F-16 fighter jet is the most versatile aircraft in the United States Air Force. It can adapt to air-to-air fighting, ground attacks, and electronic warfare.

Romualdez also raised the issue of the Philippines’ procurement law possibly posing a challenge to the deal.

“The Philippines’ procurement law states that we have to buy brand new,” he added. “Hindi kaya iyon [It’s difficult] and it’s too expensive, so buying a fairly used aircraft that’s slightly used is just as good as a brand new one and more affordable.”

For 2024, the ambassador sees an increase in military and defense cooperation between Manila and Washington.