Search and rescue for Robredo continues; Palace asks for prayers

(UPDATE 3) Rescue operations for Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo is still on, hours after a plane that was supposed to bring him to his hometown crashed off the island of Masbate Saturday.

Transportation Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas, who was also Palace's designated official to speak on the matter, said in his 1:00 am Sunday update that surface search and rescue operations continue while they had to suspend underwater operations due to currents. He added: "Hang on, Jess!"

Earlier reports say a fast craft owned by a mining company was dispatched in the area where the plane crashed. The craft supposedly comes with an equipment to check water depth and has the ability to find objects underwater. This, as the dive rescue and retrieval operations had been postponed till daybreak Sunday. 

Roxas clarified that Robredo was onboard not on a Cessna plane but on a twin-engine, four-seater Piper Seneca plane to Naga City from Cebu. The DILG official, along with pilot Jessup Bahinting, and Nepalese flight student Kshitiz Chand, are still missing as of 1:30 am Sunday. Robredo's aide, Don Abrasado has been found injured, but rejoined the search team after being given first aid, Roxas said.

"En route the plane had engine trouble and diverted to Masbate. The plane crashed or landed in water near Masbate shore," Roxas said, adding in another update that the site is about 200 meters from the shoreline.

Search and rescue operations led by the Philippine Coast Guard with fishermen continue, Roxas said.

He added that a survey team of the US Navy is also on the way to the site from Cavite, after the government accepted its offer of assistance.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda meanwhile said: "We will be updating the public as details are confirmed. Speculation is not useful at this time."

In another statement, Lacierda said a vigil has begun in the National Shrine of the Divine Child inside the La Salle Greenhills campus in Mandaluyong City for the successful rescue of the victims.

"We ask that you keep the families of Secretary Robredo and those still missing, and those engaged in rescue efforts in your prayers as well," Lacierda said.

Malacanang also released a timeline of the search and rescue operations based on reports from its officials.

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino is flying to Masbate "at first light" on Sunday with some Palace officials to check on the status of the search, Roxas said in a radio interview over dzBB.

Before being appointed to the Aquino Cabinet, Robredo was mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998, and from 2001 to 2010. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2000.

In 1986, Robredo left an executive position at San Miguel Corp. to head Naga City's Bicol River Basin Development Program under the administration of former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino.

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