At least 45 people died while 49 others were injured after a C-130 aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) crashed in Sulu on Sunday before noon, the military said Sunday.
The military said that as of 8:40 p.m., the fatalities consist of 42 military personnel who were on board the plane and three civilians who were on the ground in Patikul town.
There were 96 personnel on board the plane, of whom 49 are injured and five are unaccounted for.
Among civilians on the ground, at least three are dead and four are injured.
The C130 military aircraft with tail number 5125 took off from Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City and was about to land in Jolo port in Sulu when it crashed at 11:30 a.m. According to Joint Task Force Sulu in a statement, the plane crashed in Sitio Amman in Barangay Bangkal. Some of the passengers were new Philippine Army privates.
In a 24 Oras report, AFP chief General Cirilito Sobejana said that the plane may have missed the runway.
"Na-miss niya 'yung runway trying to regain the power at hindi nakayanan, bumagsak doon sa Barangay Bangkal, Patikul, Sulu. We are doing our best effort to rescue the passengers," he said.
The task force also said that eyewitnesses reported seeing a number of the passengers jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground.
"We remain to be hopeful that we could find more survivors. Our search and rescue is still ongoing with 17 personnel unaccounted. This individuals were supposed to report to their battalions today. They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism," said Joint Task Force Sulu Commander Major General William Gonzales in a statement.
According to Bangsamoro government spokesperson and rapid disaster response head Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, the plane was used to deliver COVID-19 medicines and equipment to island provinces in the region.
Third military aircraft crash in 2021
The plane crash is the third involving an aircraft of the Armed Forces of the Philippines this year, after deadly helicopter crashes in January and in June.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana decried speculations that the AFP purchases and uses defective equipment.
"With the investigations of the past mishaps still ongoing, such speculations are as of yet baseless and disrespectful to the affected men and women of the Philippine Air Force, AFP and their families," he said.
"We call on the public to refrain from spreading highly speculative statements about the unfortunate incident," he added. —Consuelo Marquez/KG/BM, GMA News