At least 45 killed in Philippines military plane crash

Rescue teams are searching for some 20 of the plane's occupants who are missing

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Rescue teams search for victims at the crash site of the military plane.

BarcelonaThe military plane crash in the southern Philippines has so far left 45 dead and dozens injured, while rescue teams are searching for a score of people in the charred wreckage of the ship. At least two of the fatalities are civilians and the rest of the dead are soldiers, Philippine authorities confirmed on Sunday. Both the seriousness of those that are wounded and the fact that the 20 or so occupants of the plane have not yet been located raises fears that the death toll could rise in the coming hours.

At the time of the accident the plane was making the landing maneuver at the airfield on the island of Jolo, in the southern archipelago. According to the authorities, the plane overshot the runway and did not have time to go back up. As a result, it crashed into fields near the airfield and caught fire. It is not known why the pilot had to overshoot the runway.

The plane had left a base in Cagayan de Oro, on the island of Mindanado, and most of the soldiers on board had just graduated and were going to fight against Islamic extremist groups that take refuge in the Jolo archipelago, an area with a strong presence of Islamist militias and a lot of military activity, under pressure from President Rodrigo Duterte, who is committed to annihilating them. A total of 95 people were on board, including three pilots and five crew members.

A picture of the wreckage of the crashed plane

The accident puts the spotlight back on the maintenance of the Philippine army's vehicles, whichare usually acquired as second- and even third-hand planes and helicopters. The crashed C-130, in fact, was delivered earlier this year to the Philippines through its military assistance agreement with the United States, had been used between 1988 and 2016, and had spent the last few years in a hangar at a US base.

Philippine Senator Gordon Richard has taken to Twitter to question the maintenance of military aircrafts and called for an urgent investigation to address the incident, which "puts national security at risk".

More accidents

There have been similar episodes recently. At the end of June, for example, six people were killed in a crash of an S-70i Black Hawk helicopter during a training mission near the Clark military air base, north of Manila. The helicopter was one of 16 acquired in 2019 and delivered in November. Following the incident, the defense secretary ordered the entire Black Hawk fleet to be temporarily grounded while an overhaul was conducted. In January, a UH-1H helicopter, previously used in the Vietnam War and later refurbished, crashed during a supply mission in the south of the country. The result? Eight soldiers killed.

On the other hand, in 2018, the Duterte government pledged more than $6 billion to update the military's outdated arsenal. Many opposing voices criticize that this has not been done and demand solutions from Duterte.