Korean divers join search for Robredo

Posted at 08/21/2012 7:06 AM | Updated as of 08/21/2012 12:00 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Korean technical divers will join the initial diving team that was formed to search for Interior secretary Jesse Robredo and two pilots, whose plane crashed off Masbate on Saturday afternoon.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas II said the divers are already preparing their equipment as the deep-water search resumes today.

Roxas said the Philippine Navy and first foreign technical diving team are targeting to dive at least 150 feet. The Koreans, on the other hand, are looking to go as deep as 200 feet.

"0600 update- divers assembling gear getting grid coordinates & boarding rbs. Tech teams matt et al & navy tgt is 150ft. Koreans tgt is 200ft," Roxas said in his official Twitter account.

The search and rescue operations enter its fourth day today as yesterday's operations only yielded small parts of what could be the ill-fated plane that carried the Cabinet official.

The search team was initially composed of three foreign technical divers from Malapascua Island in Cebu and personnel from the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and police personnel under the multi-agency Task Force Kalihim.

At least 400 divers and personnel, several ships, aircraft and sonar equipment are being used in the search, Col. Felix Castro, operations officer of Task Force Kalihim.

Twenty-nine of the divers were from the elite Army Special Forces Regiment.

Coupled with information on tides and currents, plus the flight manifest gathered on Sunday, the search is now focused at about 250 meters up to 300 meters at Ticao Channel.

Search and rescue teams have yet to find signs of the missing Robredo and two pilots Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand.

Only Robredo's aide Jun Abrazado so far survived the crash.

Even the large part of the Piper Seneca plane has yet to turn up. So far, only the flight plan and a portion of the plane's wing have been found.

With no significant development yet, Roxas said the government is still on search and rescue mode.

The Philippine government has also accepted the help of the United States government in searching for Robredo and the two pilots.

Roxas yesterday said a US plane equipped with “forward looking infrared” or FLIR camera conducted a flyby over the waters.

The search team is also looking into using an ROV (remote operated vehicle) from the US that will search parts of the sea that divers may not be able to reach. The advanced equipment can go as deep as 1,000 feet.