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People's Daily Online

Second-hand U.S. aircraft kills 53 in Philippine military plane crash

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 08:17, July 07, 2021

-- A total of 53 people have been killed after the crash while another 50 were injured, according to the latest data.

-- The crashed plane was a second-hand C-130 Hercules recently purchased from the U.S. military.

-- Experts and analysts said the latest tragedy reminded them in many ways of the deep-rooted unequal nature of Philippine-U.S. military cooperation.

MANILA, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Claiming 53 lives, the worst air catastrophe in the Philippines' military history in nearly 30 years has triggered some reflection on the country's military relations with the United States, from which the crashed plane came.

The latest tragedy of the 33-year-old C-130 Hercules built by the U.S. firm Lockheed is the fourth deadly air accident to happen to the Philippine military this year that concerns its procurement contracts with U.S. companies.

The date of the crash of the second-hand C-130 Hercules aircraft also marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States.

While some Philippine politicians spoke out to remind the military not to procure ill-fated "second-hand stuff," the public were concerned about the reliability of U.S.-made military equipment and the unequal Philippine-U.S. military cooperation.

HORRIBLE MILITARY AIR CATASTROPHE

On Sunday, the military plane was carrying newly-trained army personnel for counter-insurgency operations when it crashed and burst into flames after overshooting the runway on Jolo island.

Minutes after the crash, troops and civilian volunteers rushed to the site for search and rescue. "A number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground, sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash," the Philippine military said.

Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) chief of staff General Cirilito Sobejana confirmed Tuesday morning that only seven soldiers have been identified so far, as most of the dead were burned beyond recognition.

Two photos went viral on social media after the air disaster unfolded how grim this tragedy was. One with the caption "Before" showed the soldiers aboard smiling for a selfie, while the other with the caption "After" displayed the black smoke rising from the burning wreckage of the plane.

Major General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said the plane mishap "is one of the more tragic incidents that happened in our armed forces."

The latest official data showed that a total of 53 people have been killed after the crash while another 50 were injured.

GROWING DISMAY AT SECOND-HAND MILITARY EQUIPMENT

Following a series of tragedies suffered recently by the Philippine servicemen, the latest air disaster further stirred up dismay among Filipinos at the purchase of second-hand U.S.-made aircraft.

The Philippines, a major ally of the United States in the Asia Pacific region, is mainly equipped with U.S.-made weapons and military devices.

According to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) documents, the crashed plane was a second-hand C-130 Hercules recently purchased from the U.S. military.

The PAF said in an official statement that the aircraft has the tail number "5125."

According to local media, the C-130 Hercules NR 5125 first flew in 1988, and had served in U.S. Air Force until it was put in storage in 2016 before being sold and delivered to the PAF in January 2021.

Senator Francis Pangilinan said that while the troops risk their lives in the performance of their duties, "they deserve better equipment and hardware so they are safe whenever on flights."

The United States officially handed over the plane during a ceremony in February.

In his speech during the handover ceremony of the plane in February, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that his country had acquired two C-130 Hercules aircraft through security cooperation assistance.

"Out of the total cost of 2.5 billion pesos (roughly 50.89 million U.S. dollars), the Philippines will only pay 1.6 billion pesos (roughly 32.57 million dollars)," Lorenzana said, adding that the United States agreed to "shoulder" the rest of the cost.

DEEP-ROOTED UNEQUAL MILITARY COOPERATION

Experts and analysts said the latest tragedy reminded them in many ways of the deep-rooted unequal nature of Philippine-U.S. military cooperation.

Wilson Lee Flores, a columnist for English daily The Philippine Star, said this cooperation is a "vestige of past colonialism."

"The bilateral military cooperation started out in 1946 as a very unequal arrangement between a colonized country and its former colonizer," said Flores, "with American strategic, military and other interests given more priority than the interests of the Philippines."

Professor Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said the Philippines will have to continue to receive surplus military equipment from the United States due to the defense procurement system.

In January this year, seven people were killed in a PAF UH-1 "Huey" aircraft, manufactured by U.S. Bell Helicopter, that crashed in a village in Bukidnon province.

Three months later, one pilot was killed and three crew members were injured when a PAF MD520MG attack helicopter, fabricated by American manufacturer MD Helicopters, crashed into the waters off Getafe town in central Philippines' Bohol province.

Only ten days before the July 4 disaster, one of PAF's newly acquired S-70i Black Hawk utility helicopters, the flagship aircraft of Lockheed Martin, crashed north of Manila, killing six crew members.



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