DILG CHIEF ROBREDO, 2 PILOTS MISSING IN MASBATE PLANE CRASH
MANILA, AUGUST 21, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Mike Frialde - Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Manalastas Robredo was reported missing in a plane crash off Masbate City, Saturday afternoon.
Philippine National Police chief, Director General Nicanor Bartolome said Robredo, his police aide-de-camp Senior Inspector Jun Abrazado and two pilots were aboard a Piper Ceneca PA 34-200 plane and was en route from Cebu City to Naga City when the incident happened at 4:30 p.m.
The two pilots were identified as Captain Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese flight student Kshitiz Chand.
The secretary attended a gathering of civilian volunteers with his undersecretary, Rico Puno, in Cebu and was trying to catch up with the awarding ceremony of his daughter who had won a sports competition in their hometown in Naga City.
Robredo was the city's mayor before he was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as interior secretary in 2010.
Bartolome said that based on the statements of Abrazado who was rescued by passing fishermen, the plane was just about 30 minutes away from Cebu City when it encountered a problem.
Bartolome said the plane’s pilots then decided to make an emergency landing at the Masbate City airport. However, it missed the runway and crashed into the waters.
“Di umabot sa runway yung plane nila. About 300 meters from the airport bumagsak sa tubig,” said Bartolome.
Abrazado confirmed that Robredo and the two pilots are still inside the plane when it crashed.
“This is still a search and rescue operation. I have ordered police divers to look for the plane. Abrazado knows exactly where the plane went down,” said Bartolome.
Bartolome said the search and rescue operation is being headed by Superintendent Jeffrey Fernandez, Masbate deputy provincial director.
The Philippine Coast Guard immediately launched a search and rescue operation. There were reports that the search was halted, but the PCG clarified that it has been ongoing as of this posting.
The Philippine Navy and the Philippine National Police Maritime Group have sent ships and divers' teams at the crash site.
Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas announced through Twitter that the United States' navy will join the search and rescue for the missing secretary and the two pilots.
Roxas announced: "Received and accepted offer of help via US Naval Attache Captain Jack Sutherland."
He said that a US navy fleet survey team has arrived at the crash site as of 9 p.m.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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