Philippine government officials confirmed on Tuesday that the body of the country's interior ministry chief, Jesse Robredo, has been retrieved from the wreckage of the private plane that crashed Saturday afternoon in seawaters located south central of the Philippines.
In a news briefing Tuesday morning, Philippine Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas disclosed to media personnel that the body of Mr Robredo was brought to the sea surface by technical divers from Australia and the United States.
An emotional Mr Roxas broke out the sad news, according to reports by national daily The Philippine Daily Inquirer, stating that at around 7:45 a.m. (local time) the body of Mr Robredo was pinpointed by the foreign divers employed by Manila for the search and rescue operations.
The ill-fated planed was located some 55 metres below the sea surface, with the aircraft's exact resting place estimated to around 800 meters from the nearest shore, which is an island-province called Masbate.
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"The body has indications that it belongs to Sec. Jess (Robredo)," Mr Roxas was quoted by The Inquirer as saying on Tuesday.
Local television news broadcasts have also indicated that immediate recovery operation was launched following positive identification of Mr Robredo's body.
"The body arrived on the surface at about 8:15 a.m. this morning," Mr Roxas was reported by TV reports as saying.
Divers have also reported that the bodies of the small aircraft's two pilots - a Filipino and a Nepalese national - were found trapped inside the plane's cockpit, making it difficult for rescuers to extract them.
"The two pilots were inside the cockpit that's why they recovered Sec. Jesse's body first," Mr Roxas said in explaining why Mr Robredo was first pulled out from the wreckage and brought up to the sea surface.
Efforts were still underway to retrieve the bodies of the two pilots who manned the Piper Seneca plane with intents to deliver the key government official in Naga City, a thriving city located south central of the country.
ABS-CBN has reported that the interior minister took a private plane Saturday to catch up with the swimming competition of his youngest daughter but he failed to show up.
Prior to the plane crash, local media reports said the plane's pilot had radioed that the flight has encountered mechanical problems and he needed to make an emergency landing in a Masbate airport.
The light plane, however, plunged into sea waters a few kilometres before the reaching the runway.
An aide of Mr Robredo was able to climb out of the aircraft before it sunk deep into the waters, local reports said.
Mr Robredo rose to national prominence as the city mayor of Naga prior to his stint as one of the key cabinet ministers of the popular Philippine government headed by President Benigno Aquino.
For his role as chief executive of a small town in the poverty-stricken Asian country, Mr Robredo won in 2000 the Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered as the equivalent of Nobel Prize in Asia.
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