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Military rules out foul play in crash of C-130 aircraft

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has ruled out a rebel attack by in the crash of a military C-130 plane on Sunday that killed 50 people.

There was no evidence of foul play, military spokesman Edgard A. Arevalo told CNN Philippines on Monday. He added that the plane crashed after missing the runway upon landing.

The aircraft followed protocols and had landed on the same runway many times in the past, he added.

Mr. Arevalo said the plane was “in tip-top condition” and had 11,000 flying hours remaining. He could not say whether it was overloaded or if the runway was in poor condition pending investigation.

The remains of the 47 soldiers and three civilians who died have been recovered and would be identified using dental records, he said. The 49 soldiers and four civilians who survived have been rescued and the injured brought to hospitals, he added.

“This is one of the most tragic incidents that happened in the AFP,” Mr. Arevalo said. “The AFP will be transparent in the investigation because just like you, we are very much interested in finding out what happened.”

The soldiers on board the C-130 aircraft were on a mission to bring more troops to Sulu province to boost the government’s fight against terror groups in southern Philippines including the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group.

Mr. Arevalo said the accident affects the country’s defense and humanitarian operations, especially in Sulu, but said the military has “other assets and contingency measures in place.” 

Recent military aircraft accidents might prompt the government to further modernize the country’s armed forces, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing.

The C-130 mishap happened two weeks after a Black Hawk helicopter carrying six soldiers crashed during a night-flying exercise in Tarlac province.

“These events might, will provide impetus for further modernization,” Mr. Roque said. “We will ensure that we will proceed at full speed ahead in modernizing our armed forces because we need them in defending our territorial sovereignty.”

Mr. Roque said President Rodrigo R. Duterte was deeply saddened by the plane crash, considered as one of the country’s deadliest military aviation accidents. The President was set to visit the injured soldiers on Monday afternoon.

House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco vowed to help the Philippine Air Force replace the lost C-130 and support efforts to upgrade and modernize its fleet.

The House leader said Congress was supposed to include the purchase of more C-130 planes in the 2021 national budget, but there was not enough time to deliberate on the modernization of the its fleet when he took over as Speaker in October.

He urged the armed forces to investigate the accident “with the end in view of preventing such disasters from happening again.”

Air Force protocols should be reviewed and the safety of runways nationwide especially in the countryside should be probed, he said. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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