johnny pimentel

DND asked to tap commercial, chartered planes to ferry soldiers

October 24, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 340 views

A SENIOR member of Congress on Sunday urged the Department of National Defense (DND) to tap commercial airlines to fly soldiers pending the acquisition of five new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

“Assuming Camp Aguinaldo is in a rush to deploy soldiers somewhere, and no military aircraft is readily available, we would recommend the use of either commercial or chartered flights,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on strategic intelligence. “If necessary, Congress can provide the DND the extra funding to pay
for the commercial flights,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said the military’s use of commercial flights would not only allow soldiers to fly safely and comfortably, but would also help local airlines recover financially from the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) crisis.

On July 4, one of the PAF’s two newly refurbished C-130H aircraft crashed due to “a combination of material, human and environmental factors” while trying to land at the Jolo Airport in Sulu province.

The accident killed all 50 soldiers on board, including the crew, who were being flown in from Cagayan de Oro City. Three people on the ground were also killed.

The House of Representatives earlier approved a P5.5 billion supplemental budget for the DND in the 2022 national budget.

The amount is meant to enable the PAF to make the initial payment for the procurement of five new C-130J aircraft from American aerospace and defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.

“We are all for the purchase of the new aircraft. Besides their military use, the new planes will improve our capacity to swiftly deploy emergency first responders as well as relief supplies to provinces hit by typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural disasters,” Pimentel said.

Global risk agencies have tagged the Philippines as one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, being at the center of a typhoon belt and within the Pacific Ring of Fire frequented by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

The Super Hercules is a versatile four-engine turboprop troop and cargo transport aircraft that can land in short and rough runways even in the mountains, according to Pimentel.

“We can even use the planes to airlift and bring home distressed Filipino workers abroad,” Pimentel pointed out.

Each C-130J can carry 92 passengers or 64 fully equipped soldiers.