The Philippines has identified the Saab Gripen as the best candidate for the nation’s fighter requirement.

The government-owned Philippine News Agency recently quoted defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana as saying that the Swedish fighter is the best option in terms of price and capability.

He is reported as saying that the inclination to acquire Gripen follows thorough research into the matter.

The comments come after Saab heavily promoted its Gripen C/D at a recent defence show in Manila.

Lorenzana also said that the US had pitched the Lockheed Martin F-16, but that this solution was deemed cost prohibitive.

The article gave no details of the numbers of fighters the Philippines intends to acquire.

In 2014, Manila signed a deal $420 million deal with Korea Aerospace Industries for 12 FA-50s, all of which have been delivered.

The arrival of the FA-50s from 2015 saw the Philippine Air Force operating its first fast jets since retiring its Northrop F-5s in 2004. In the 2000's, Manila’s focus was primarily on counterinsurgency missions in the southern Philippines, but China’s ever growing presence in the South China Sea has forced Manila to rethink conventional capabilities.

Should Manila acquire the Gripen, it would be the second operator of the type in the region. Thailand operates 11 Gripens. It had 12, but one was lost in a 2017 crash during a flying display, killing the pilot.

"Saab has responded to requests for information from the Philippines with regard to the proposed Multi-Role Fighter programme," says the company. "We are ready to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their continuing processes."

Updated with official comment from Saab.