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Philippine minister missing after crash

2012-08-18 20:55

Manila - A light aircraft carrying Philippine Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo crashed into the sea on Saturday while attempting an emergency landing. One person was rescued but Robredo and the two pilots were missing, officials said.

Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the aircraft - a four-seat, twin-engine Piper Seneca - took off from central Cebu city and was heading to Robredo's hometown of Naga city in Camarines Sur province when the pilot informed the Masbate airport that it would make an emergency landing.

The aircraft was unable to reach the airport and crashed into the sea.

He said an aide of Robredo was able to jump out and was rescued.

Robredo is one of the members of the Cabinet closest to President Benigno Aquino III and helped his election campaign in 2010.

The interior secretary is in charge of the Philippine National Police and local government units.

Hopeful prayers

Rescue workers joined by fishermen were searching the waters off Masbate city, about 380km southwest of Manila, for Robredo and the two pilots - a Filipino and a Nepali - but had to halt the underwater search because of darkness, Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno said.

The government accepted an offer from the US military attaché for an American naval survey team currently in the Philippines to help in the search, Roxas said.

Puno said he and Robredo attended a gathering of civilian volunteers assisting in police work in Cebu. After the event, the secretary took the aircraft for Naga, he said.

"Later, we got a call from the aide that their plane had developed engine trouble and they needed help," Puno said.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda urged the public to join the president and the Cabinet in prayer for Robredo's successful rescue.

The coast guard said the aircraft crashed about 1km from the shore close to Masbate airport.