By Julmunir I. Jannaral
CAMP NAVARRO, Calarian, Zamboanga City
“The Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (WestMinCom-AFP) is extremely grateful to the assistance extended by our brothers and sisters Tausug in Sulu who were among the first responders that rescued several survivors of the air mishap on July 4, 2021,” said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., WestMinCom commander.
The AFP experienced one of the worst tragedies in history when the newly acquired Lockheed C-130 Hercules with tail number 5125 crash-landed in Barangay Bangkal, Patikul, Sulu on Sunday, according to Colonel Alaric Avelino P. delos Santos, WestMinCom spokesman.
Colonel Santos told the Philippine Muslim Today during this hard time, the armed forces received overwhelming support from the villagers who unhesitatingly responded to the crash site and rescued injured victims, and brought them to safety.
“To the survivors and all of us, our brothers and sisters Tausug are our heroes. They risked their own lives to save their fellow Filipinos whom they consider as their protectors from the malefactors,” Lt. Gen. Vinluan, Jr. further stated.
Aside from the villagers, the CAFGUs and cadre from Bangkal Patrol Base are also among the first responders who aggressively extricated more than 20 wounded soldiers from the incident site.
“Their heroic deeds are worthy of praise and recognition. This exemplifies that at times when we, protectors of the people and the state are in trouble, we have the peace-loving people to depend on. Muslims or Christians, we are Filipinos with one flag and one country,” Lt. Gen. Vinluan, Jr. continued.
“Rest assured that the Western Mindanao Command will work doubly to bring lasting peace and sustainable development in Sulu, and to keep all our brothers and sisters Muslim in the province safe and secured,” he expressed.
As of this writing, 47 soldiers are undergoing medical treatment at the private and public hospitals in this city. Army PFC Nathaniel Bongcayao is one of the survivors now recuperating in a hospital in Zamboanga City.
However the latest update stated on July 5, 2021 that the investigators have found already the black box of the C-130 plane that crashed at the end of the runway of Jolo Airport in order to determine the real cause of the accident.
As the search and recovery teams recovered the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the C-130 and both the FDR and CVR will be shipped to a facility capable of evaluating and analyzing data.
But the big question now confronting the investigators put up by the Chief of Staff of the AFP (CSAFP) Gen. Cirilito Sobejana is to determine why the plane went out of the runway of Jolo Airport in the Province of Sulu.
Ironically, the Patikul residents that sometimes suspected as supporters of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists were the one that helped the wounded military men and they helped the retrieval operations of the wounded soldiers from the wreckage of C-130.
Based on the approved report of CSAFP Gen. Sobejana, there was a total of 96 passengers on board the ill-fated military aircraft.
Out of these total 96 passengers, there were 47 cadavers retrieved. In the flight manifest, there were 3 pilots on board and 5 crew members of the Philippine Air Force.
Major Michael Vincent Benolerao, Philippine Air Force, was one of three pilots who perished in the July 4, 2021 crash of a Lockheed C-130 Herculas plane in Sulu province in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
On the other hand, 3 civilian Patikul residents on the ground and not among the plane passengers died too, while 4 were critically injured. Their houses were situated near the end of the runway of the Jolo Airport.
Thus WestMinCom commander, Lt. Gen. Vinluan, Jr., had earlier said: “To the survivors and all of us, our brothers and sisters Tausug are our heroes. They risked their own lives to save their fellow Filipinos whom they consider as their protectors from the malefactors.”
As of this writing, there were 49 soldiers who have availed of the medical evacuation to Zamboanga City so that they can be treated at the well advanced medical hospitals in Zamboanga City.
Of course, first in the list is the Camp Navarro General Hospital, a military hospital inside the WestMinCom in Zamboanga City where there are 5 injured victims of the plane crash admitted for treatment.
Likewise, there were 18 injured soldiers where their injuries do not really need a hospitalization at the advanced hospitals remained confined at the 11th Infantry (Alakdan) Division Station Hospital in Jolo.
Finally, other injured soldiers of the plane crash were confined in the different private hospitals in Zamboanga City, where 3 patients are now confined at Ciudad Medical Center; 17 patients in Zamboanga City Medical Center; 4 in West Metro Hospital; and 2 patients in
Zamboanga Doctors Hospital.
As this developed, another update of the C-130 plane crash, it says most of the passengers were fresh from the military training of the Philippine Army and they were brought to Jolo for their first deployment in the field.
Another assurance made from the AFP is that the Gen. Sobejana as the chief of staff of AFP is on top of the situation as he visited Jolo last Monday in order to see for himself the present situation.
Likewise, the AFP hierarchy also assured the families and next of kin that they will receive the necessary assistance or benefits that they are entitled to.
However, the AFP appealed to the public to avoid speculations. “We assure you that the AFP will be transparent in the conduct of investigation. Now that the blackbox or the flight data recorder and voice cockpit recorder have been found already,” Col. Delos Santos, WestMinCom spokesman said.
He also admitted while the aircraft is not brand new but it is in very good condition. And it has 11,000 flying hours left.
“There’s is no truth to the rumor that the aircraft is defective. We have to wait for the result of the investigation as to whether the flight exceeded the desired number of passengers, he further said.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Maynard P. Mariano, speaking from the Headquarters of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Public Affairs Office at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Pasay City said the PAF particularly the members of the 220th Airlift Wing Aircraft Accident Investigation Board are currently on-site investigating the crash of C-130 with tail number 5125 in Jolo.
Lt. Col. Mariano said the team is composed of personnel of various specialization like pilots, maintenance, medical and other technical fields.
The team gathered evidence and conducted interviews, among others, to determine the cause of the accident. The PAF has grounded its C-130 fleet pending the result of the investigation.
The search and recovery teams were able to recover the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of the C-130. The FDR and CVR will be shipped to a facility capable of evaluating and analyzing data.
The said C-130 was not overloaded. It was well within the operational limits and capacity when it left Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro City with 96 passengers compared to its maximum capacity of 120 passengers; this is contrary to the circulating rumor that the aircraft was overloaded.
There were 12 PAF personnel together with 84 Army troopers onboard the ill-fated C-130. Of the 12, three (3) were pilots, five (5) crew members, three (3) S-7 team members, and one (1) thru passenger.
Currently, the priority effort is identifying the bodies of the PAF personnel through various means with the help of a SOCO team. Details on the casualties, particularly their names, shall be withheld until their loved ones have been properly informed.
Lt. Gen. Allen T. Paredes, PAF Commanding General, recognizes the sacrifices and dedication of all soldiers and airmen. He condoles with the families of soldiers and airmen who perished in the crash. He has directed concerned PAF units to coordinate with affected families, make tentative arrangements, provide necessary assistance and information, and address other concerns. The families of PAF personnel will receive benefits and assistance, and PAF personnel will stand by their side.
Right after the accident, the Vice Commander, PAF; Commander, Air Mobility Command; and, Wing Commander, 220th Airlift Wing immediately proceeded to the area. The PAF also activated the Battle Staff “Alpha” at Headquarters, PAF to orchestrate and coordinate efforts of all PAF units involved.
As the passengers are from the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Army, the search and recovery efforts were jointly conducted with Joint Task Force (JTF)-Sulu as on-scene Incident Commander. AFP units in the area assisted.
Efforts to provide the immediate assistance is ongoing, as per latest update, on the 6th of July 2021, the remains of Air Force Captain Nigello R. Emeterio and TSgt. Mark Anthony Agana, PAF arrived at Clark Air Base, Mabalacat City, Pampanga from Zamboanga City via NC212i aircraft.
Appropriate military honors were rendered to the PAF Officers.
Since Lt. Gen. Parades assumed command last year, the PAF has embarked on the Safety Transformation for Enhanced Performance and Unit Preservation or STEP UP program.
Notably, the PAF discarded the 1970s-inspired PAF Manual 17-5 “Safety Program” and institutionalized the Safety Management Systems Manual that adopted applicable principles and standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
It also launched the PAF Safety Climate Assessment and Notations (PAF SCAN) to gauge prevailing safety culture in units in terms of just, informed, learning and reporting cultures; and launched online safety courses for Squadron Commanders and other personnel, among others.
These, notwithstanding, the PAF will institute necessary corrective actions based on the results of the ongoing investigation. JIJ