Defense News reports that Manila, due to high maintenance costs, may forgo procuring surplus U.S. F-16s and purchase from another country. This comes as tensions continue to escalate with China over the Spratley Islands and the South China Sea.
Currently, the Philippines have no air-superiority fighters that can go up against China and win. Manila retired their last F-5 in 2005, effectively leaving the country without an air defense capability. With China rapidly modernizing their Navy and Air Force, Manila has asked the U.S. for 1 to 2 squadrons of surplus F-16s. However, President Benigno Aquino stated May 16th, "We might end up spending $400 million to $800 million per squadron, and we were thinking of getting two squadrons.... We do have an alternative, and - this is a surprise - it seems we have the capacity to buy brand new, but not from America.... These are manufactured by another progressive country that I won't name at this point." This "progressive" country President Aquino mentions, would probably be South Korea, as the Philippines have looked into purchasing 6 TA-50s to replace several of their retired F-5s.
However, if you reread the quote from President Aquino it seems to be making angry noises for the press rather than actually considering a purchase of non-U.S. fighters. The Philippines will get their F-16s one way or another, because the F-16 is the only fighter that they can afford that can win against the Chinese. The TA-50 on other hand is a trainer with a small attack capability, and is not purpose built for air-to-air combat.Still, stranger things have happened if the Philippines purchased fighters from a country besides the U.S.. As the summer approaches it will interesting to see how things play out in South China Sea, and the Philippines.