Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel on Sunday, October 24, advised 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 Pimentel, the chairperson of the House of the Representatives strategic intelligence committee.
“If necessary, Congress can provide the DND with extra funding to pay for the commercial flights.”
According to Pimentel 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 COVID-19 pandemic.
Last July 4, one of the PAF’s two modernized C-130H aircraft crashed while trying to land at the Jolo Airport in Sulu province.
All 50 soldiers on board died, including the crew, who were flown in from Cagayan de Oro City. Three civilians on the ground also died during the crash.
The Lower House earlier endorsed a P5.5 billion supplemental budget for the DND in the 2022 national budget.
The amount allows the PAF to make an initial payment for the procurement of five new C-130J Super Hercules from Lockheed Martin Corporation.
The C-130J is an updated four-engine turboprop troop and cargo transport aircraft that can land in short and rough runways. Each aircraft can carry 92 passengers or 64 fully-equipped soldiers.
“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,” added the Surigao del Sur 2nd District congressman.
“We can even use the planes to airlift and bring home distressed Filipino workers abroad.”
Global risk organizations have identified the Philippines as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world because of frequent typhoons and the Pacific Ring of Fire. (Melvin Sarangay)