(Update 12:40 a.m.) Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and two other people went missing after the plane they were riding crashed in seawaters off Masbate City on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

As of 8 p.m., authorities are still searching for Robredo and the plane’s two pilots, Lt. Col. Julian Pacatan Jr., commander of the Army’s 9th Infantry Battalion based in Masbate, said.

President Benigno Aquino will visit Masbate on Sunday, Pacatan said.

The light aircraft carrying Robredo, his personal aide Senior Insp. Jun Abrasado, and two pilots crashed around 4:30 p.m. in waters near Brgy. Ibingay, Col. Generoso Bolina, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Southern Luzon Command, said in a phone interview.

“[The plane was coming from] Cebu to Naga City, nagkaroon ng problema sa makina, so nagpaalam sila na mag-emergency landing sa Masbate, pero pagdating dun malapit sa airport di umabot dun, nag-crash,” Bolina said.

The six-seater Piper Seneca plane, owned by Cebu-based Aviatour Flight School, was piloted by Capt. Jessup Bahinting and Kshitiz Chand, a Nepalese flight student, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The plane was only 500 meters away from the airport when it crashed, Pacatan said.

Abrasado, who reportedly jumped out of the plane before it hit the water, was found alive by passing fishermen and is now being taken care of by the police, Bolina said.

Members of the Coast Guard, police, Army, and local rescuers were immediately sent to scour the waters for Robredo and the two pilots.

Around 6 p.m., the Navy also sent its patrol gunboats BRP Simeon Castro and BRP Hilario Ruiz, as well as a team of Naval Special Operations Group members to conduct underwater and surface search and rescue operations in the waters off Masbate, Navy spokesman Col. Omar Tonsay said. (John Roson)

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