CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – The President of the Republic of the Philippines on Monday conferred military awards to soldiers who were wounded and killed-in-action following the ill-fated C-130 plane crash in Sulu.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City two days after the unfortunate event to personally award the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kampilan to wounded-in-action personnel at Camp Navarro General Hospital.

He was accompanied by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, General Cirilito Sobejana and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kalasag was then posthumously awarded to killed-in-action personnel at the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NAVFORWEM) during a symbolic conferment ceremony in the same day.

“The AFP is grateful for the President for honoring our soldiers’ courage, bravery, and dedication to their sworn duty in pursuit of a lasting peace and development for our nation,” General Sobejana said.

Meanwhile, the AFP Chief confirmed that as of Tuesday, the casualties from the military increased to 49 bringing the total fatality to 52 which include the three non-passenger civilians.

Total injured are now at 51; of which 47 are military personnel and four non-passenger civilians.

General Sobejana also verified that the crashed C-130 aircraft’s black box was recovered by troops on Monday.

The investigating team from the 220th Airlift Wing are already in the crash site along with the 45th Infantry Battalion and Tactical Operations Group 11 to continuously secure the area and gather more pieces of evidence.

He assured that investigations are ongoing and necessary actions will be taken to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

“Measures are in place to ensure the airworthiness of our assets and the safety of our crew and personnel using them. As such, we have launched an investigation to find out the circumstances of this unfortunate incident,” General Sobejana said.

The AFP also guaranteed to provide families of the deceased military members the necessary support and assistance as well as give the benefits due to the soldiers who died in line of duty.

Military honors, burial and traditional ceremonies will be accorded to them while the national flag in all military camps will be lowered to half-mast in their honor.

“We seek for the prayers of our countrymen for our wounded soldiers and for the eternal rest and repose of the souls of those who suffered in this tragedy,” the AFP Chief said.///