Armed Forces of the Philippines

Crashed military plane not brand new but in ‘tip-top’ condition – AFP

Lian Buan

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Crashed military plane not brand new but in ‘tip-top’ condition – AFP

First responders work at the site after a Philippines Air Force Lockheed C-130 plane carrying troops crashed on landing in Patikul, Sulu province, Philippines July 4, 2021.

AFP Joint Task Force Sulu/Handout via Reuters

(1st UPDATE) ‘It still had around 11,000 flying hours remaining before its next maintenance,’ says military spokesman Edgard Arevalo

The C-130 military plane that crashed in Patikul, Sulu, on Sunday, July 4, and which killed 52 people including 49 soldiers was in “tip-top” condition, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“The aircraft was in tip-top shape, it’s not brand new, but it’s in very good condition,” said AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo during a press conference on Monday, July 5, refuting information that the aircraft was defective.

Arevalo said the C-130 plane “still had around 11,000 flying hours remaining before its next maintenance.” The C-130 plane is considered the workhorse of the air force.

The C-130 plane that crashed in Sulu, with tail number 5125, was delivered to the AFP only in January. It was bought from the United States.

It missed the runway at noon on Sunday in Patikul, Sulu before crashing. It took off from the Villamor Airbase in Pasay, landed in Cagayan de Oro, and was on its way to bring troops to Sulu.

“The pilots are all rated, seasoned and experienced,” said Arevalo, adding that initial information showed the aircraft followed all protocols.

“What is yet to be determined is what caused the aircraft to miss the runway,” said Arevalo.

The weather “was good,” at the time of the crash said Arevalo.

The area of the runway “is already a village,” said Arevalo, meaning there are settlements “which probably could be the reason why civilians were hurt or who perished in the incident.”

The flight’s manifest shows 96 passengers, 49 of whom died and 47 survived. There were three pilots and five air crew. Three civilians on the ground also died, while four other civilians on the ground were wounded. 

Most of the passengers were fresh graduates from military training.

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Arevalo did not disclose whether the three pilots survived. Arevalo said they would rather not disclose the names and identities of the 49 passengers who survived, because not all the families of those who died have been notified yet.

Arevalo said the AFP is still assembling teams as per protocol to inform the kin, which would include spiritual leaders and medical professionals. 

“This is one of the more tragic accidents that happened,” said Arevalo, when asked if they could classify it as the worst accident in the history of the Philippine military.

Arevalo said the bodies of all passengers who died have been recovered, and will be identified using dental records.


Arevalo did not answer the question whether 96 was in accordance to the plane’s capacity, saying he would rather wait for the result of a full investigation already underway.

Arevalo also did not comment on “observations” that the runway was allegedly in poor condition, and to questions whether the survivors jumped from the plane.

Arevalo said the investigation will look at eyewitness accounts, data from the control tower in Sulu, and data from the black box which is yet to be recovered as of writing. The black box, or the flight data recorder, is a device installed in aircraft designed to survive an accident to aid investigations.

Arevalo said the AFP will be “transparent” in its investigation, but conceded that matters of national security will be kept confidential.

“Not all results of investigation are for public consumption. We have to be deliberate and accurate and we are doing our best to conclude it at the soonest time possible,” the AFP said in its statement Monday morning.

Apart from the C-130 plane that crashed, there is one other operational C-130 that will be grounded as per protocol until the investigation is done. There are two other C-130s under maintenance overseas, and one that is still to be delivered.

Arevalo said the area has been cordoned off to ensure that personnel involved in the search, retrieval, and investigation operations are safe, and to prevent potential disruptions from enemies of the state.

“The AFP is in control; we will not allow any disruption during the investigation,” said the military in a statement.

All families will be given benefits, assistance, and the soldiers who died will be given funeral honors by the state. The 49 survivors are spread out across hospitals and ready to be airlifted if they require higher-quality treatment. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.