The Philippine navy has commissioned its first amphibious landing dock vessel and three smaller landing craft heavy vessels as it continues to modernize amid a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

President Benigno Aquino III says the BRP Tarlac, commissioned Wednesday, is the country's first strategic sealift vessel and the navy's biggest ship. He says it will serve in military, humanitarian and disaster operations and was acquired under the 60 billion peso ($1.3 billion) military modernization program that began in 2010.

The 123-meter-long (400-foot-long) ship, with a 2,800-ton payload capacity, is the first of two such vessels for the navy. The second one, also built in Indonesia, is expected to be delivered next year.

The smaller landing craft heavy vessels were bought from Australia.