Plane with Philippine interior secretary crashes

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Associated Press

Posted on August 18, 2012 at 8:01 AM

Updated Saturday, Aug 18 at 6:30 PM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A light plane carrying Philippine Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo crashed into the sea 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 plane 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.

Rescue workers joined by fishermen were searching the waters off Masbate city, about 380 kilometers (235 miles) 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 U.S. military attache 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 plane 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 spokesman Edwin Lacierda urged the public to join the president and the Cabinet in prayer for Robredo's successful rescue.

The coast guard said the plane crashed about one kilometer (half a mile) from the shore close to Masbate airport.

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