‘C-130 crash won’t cripple military operations’

Romina Cabrera - The Philippine Star
âC-130 crash wonât cripple military operationsâ
Philippine soldiers stand near wreckage of a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport aircraft, which crashed July 4 and killed 50 people after it overshot the runway, in Jolo town, Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao on July 5, 2021.
AFP / Nickee Butlangan

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has contingency measures to ensure that the crash on Sunday of its only active C-130 transport aircraft will not cripple military operations.

AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo made the assurance amid concerns that the loss of the aircraft – along with more than half of its nearly hundred passengers – has diminished the military’s capability to perform its mission. Three civilians on the ground also died in the accident.

“We understand the concern. The C-130 is a heavy lift aircraft. We still have medium lift aircraft C-295. It can also carry cargo and personnel but not as many as a C-130 can carry,” he said during an interview with One News’ The Chiefs on Wednesday.

Arevalo said another C-130 is expected to return from Portugal within the month after undergoing routine maintenance, but will remain grounded until after the investigation into Sunday’s deadly crash is finished.

“Be that as it may, the investigation should be completed before the aircraft is allowed to take off because it’s important that we get information on what went wrong, or which procedures we need to adjust, so it can be flown safely,” he said in Filipino.

Arevalo allayed concerns that the ill-fated C130 plane was in bad condition, saying it had over 11,000 flying hours left before its scheduled maintenance.

He also dismissed reports that the aircraft was originally scheduled to fly to Jolo on Saturday but had to postpone its departure to next day to some unspecified problems.

“There are cases when flights are delayed not because of problems (with the aircraft), but due to reasons related to the mission. I don’t know the situation exactly,” he added.

Arevalo said the plane’s black box would be sent to a facility in the US for analysis.

“With this we hope to find out the technical details we need to know, not from the perspective of the one who saw it or the video recording from social media,” Arevalo said.

$1 million worth of weapons from US

The United States delivered P48.5 million ($1 million) worth of new weapons and munitions to the AFP under a grant assistance.

The delivery included 14 M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine guns, seven M240B machine guns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition that were turned over by officials of the Joint United States Military Assistance Group-Philippines (JUSMAG-P) on July 4 at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

“As the United States and Philippines celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations today, we welcome this key equipment transfer, which will support the continued readiness of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said JUSMAG-P chief Col. Stephen Ma.

The US embassy in Manila said the latest delivery “continues the United States’ longstanding commitment to our Filipino allies.”

The Philippines is the largest recipient of US military assistance in the Indo-Pacific. Since 2015, the US has provided more than P48.6 billion ($1 billion) in security assistance to the Philippines.

This year, the US and the Philippines are commemorating 70 years since the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

Yesterday, the PAF and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) concluded their first air-to-air bilateral training on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) also in Clark Air Base.

“Japan is proud to share with the PAF the JASDF’s experience and knowledge on delivery operations of relief goods to people in urgent need,” the Japanese embassy in said in a statement.

Japan and the Philippines are both vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons due to their climate and topography.

During the four-day exercise, the JASDF deployed a training unit of Air Support Command involving a C-130H cargo aircraft.

But due to the recent crash, the joint training activity focused on ground training such as in loading/offloading as well as simulated emergency procedure utilizing one C-130 aircraft from JASDF.

Joint Phl-Japan training

JASDF unit commander Major Mizuno Masaki expressed his sympathies to families of victims of the crash.

“We are deeply saddened by the plane crash in Sulu. We offer our sincerest condolences to all those who lost due to the tragic crash,” Masaki said.

He said Japan was very grateful for the opportunity to visit the Philippines and work with the PAF for the first air-to-air bilateral training on HA/DR. This year marks the 65th year of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Japan and their 10th strategic partnership.

“We shared our knowledge and experience through the exercise and achieved a higher level of coordination and operative capabilities on HA/DR with our Filipino counterparts. As a strategic partner and friend of the Philippines, we are very much satisfied that our bilateral training contributes greatly to further strengthen the cooperation between our two Air Forces,” he added.

A key House leader, meanwhile, has voiced support for Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s commitment to include in the proposed 2022 national budget the modernization of the Philippine Air Force.

“We join Speaker Velasco in his efforts to help the PAF upgrade and modernize its aircraft fleet to prevent military aviation accidents and unnecessary non-combat casualties in the future,” Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera said.

“It is important for us in Congress to make sure that sufficient funds are available for the AFP’s modernization priorities. It is high time that we modernize the military’s hardware and equipment, particularly its aircraft,” Herrera, of Bagong Henerasyon party-list, said.

Velasco earlier vowed to include in the national budget for next year the modernization of PAF’s air assets after one of its C-130 planes crashed in Patikul, Jolo, killing 52 people and injuring 44 others.

“I can only give my word that we in the House will include in the 2022 budget the modernization of the PAF’s fleet as well as ensure the proper training of personnel in handling modern equipment,” he said.

According to Herrera, a well-funded modernization program in the AFP will “ensure the safety of Filipino soldiers whose lives are put at stake in order to serve the Philippines and its people.”

Herrera also offered her heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of soldiers and civilians who died in the plane crash. “While our hearts are filled with sorrow for the supreme price they paid, we acknowledge with sense of gratitude to them their selfless services to the Filipino nation,” Herrera said. — Pia Lee-Brago, Delon Porcalla

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