MANILA (UPDATE) - The United States expressed sympathy to the Philippines following the deadly crash of a C-130 plane on Sunday in Sulu, killing dozens of soldiers and some civilians.
"On behalf of the United States, I offer our deep condolences to the people of the Philippines regarding the tragic plane crash in which several dozen service members were killed," US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
"Our thoughts are with those who were injured and the families of those who were lost," he added.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III shared a similar message.
The death toll from the crash, as of Monday morning, stood at 50, including 47 soldiers and three civilians. Forty-nine other military personnel and four civilians on the ground were injured.
The C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, acquired from the US through the US Foreign Military Sales program, was carrying troops for deployment in Sulu. It "missed the runway while trying to regain power" as it was about to land, said military chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has ordered a "full investigation to get to the bottom of the incident, as soon as the rescue and recovery operation is completed."
"We call on the public to refrain from spreading highly speculative statements about the unfortunate incident," Lorenzana said Sunday.
"With the investigations of the past mishaps still ongoing, such speculations are as of yet baseless and disrespectful to the affected men and women of the Philippine Air Force, AFP and their families," he added.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said investigators are looking for the plane's flight data recorder "to identify and determine with technical specifications" the cause of the crash.
He said there was no sign of any attack on the plane.
The Philippine military received the plane from the US in February, the first of two C-130 Hercules aircraft worth P2.5 billion. Of the said amount, Manila will only pay P1.6 billion while the rest is covered by Washington.
The aircraft could carry a maximum of 19,000 kilograms, and has a flying range of some 1,900 kilometers.
While it is not brand new, it was in very good condition, with 11,000 flying hours left, the Philippine military said. It debunked rumors that the plane was defective.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Philippine allies at this difficult time and are ready to provide all appropriate support to the Philippines’ response effort," Sullivan, the US security advisor, said.
John Law, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, had also offered "sincerest condolences to the families of those who passed away."
He said the embassy is assisting the Philippine defense department "in providing medical support and stands ready to provide further assistance."
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson AO, whose country also has strong military ties with the Philippines, also expressed condolences.
The Philippine Air Force has four C-130s in its inventory before the crash happened. Of the remaining ones, one is temporarily grounded while the two others are undergoing maintenance.
The last mishap to happen in the country involving a C-130 was in August 2008 off Davao Gulf, killing two pilots and seven crewmen on board.
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