House to approve funding commercial flights to transport soldiers­—Pimentel


THE chairman of the House Committee on Strategic Intelligence on Sunday urged to the Department of National Defense (DND) to use 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, Congress recommends and would fund the use of either commercial or chartered flights, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny T. Pimentel, the panel chairman, 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 Covid-19 crisis. “If necessary, Congress can provide the DND the extra funding to pay for the commercial flights,” Pimentel said.

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.

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

He added the amount is meant to enable the PAF to make the initial payment for the procurement of 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.

The Super Hercules is a versatile 4-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.

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