The search and rescue team for a missing Cessna plane has been allowed by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to climb Mayon Volcano which has been declared a permanent danger zone (PDZ) with alert level 2 raised in the area.
Meanwhile, the state-run Energy Development Corp. (EDC) which owned the missing aircraft with registry number RP-C2080 said it would not stop until the passengers and pilot have been found.
The search and rescue team however, would be scaling the iconic volcano in extreme danger due to potential heavy rains that can cause floodwaters to cascade down the slopes.
At a televised public briefing, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesman Eric Apolonio said given the Philvolcs permission, the search and rescue team can now proceed with their mission.
“So far, ngayon, ang pagkakaalam ko nakahingi na po ng permit sa PHIVOLCS kasi PDZ po yung site, so hindi basta makakapasok ‘yung ating rescue team. But since nabigyan na po, magtutuloy na tayo sa pagpanhik,” Apolonio said.
According to Apolonio, investigators have to go to the supposed crash site on the ground, not just through aerial inspection, to confirm if the debris found there was really from the missing Cessna aircraft owned by the state-run Energy Development Corp. (EDC).
The search and rescue operations for the missing Cessna plane will focus on the Mayon Volcano area, Camalig, Albay Mayor Carlos Irwin Baldo Jr. said on Monday.
The CAAP said the Bicol International Airport air traffic controllers lost contact with a Ces na 340 airplane carrying four people, including the pilot, crew, and two passengers.
The agency said the Cessna 340 (Caravan) aircraft departed Bicol International Airport at 6:43 a.m.
Air traffic controllers last contacted the aircraft at 6:46 a.m., when the plane was approaching the Camalig Bypass Road at an altitude of 2,600 feet.
The plane was expected to arrive in Manila at 7:53 a.m. The EDC said in a statement its Emergency Response Team was able to get video shots and photos on Sunday of what appears to be plane wreckage located at a very steep terrain and high altitude of about 6,000 feet near Mt. Mayon.
EDC said it has yet to verify if it is indeed their company plane RP-C2080 that was reported missing shortly after taking off from the Bicol International Airport at 6:45am Saturday.
The company said there have been, so far, no sightings yet of EDC pilot Captain Rufino James Crisostomo Jr. and crew Joel Martin as well as passengers Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam, both technical consultants of EDC.
EDC said it is in constant communication with the passengers’ respective families.
“Our efforts remain focused on the safe rescue of the four passengers and we will not stop until they are found,” said EDC assistant vice President and head of corporate relations and communications Allan Barcena said.
The company is working closely with Mayor Baldo who took on the role of Incident Commander as soon as the map coordinates had identified their town as the most likely location of the missing plane.
The team is now making adjustments in its rescue plan in order to address the combination of challenges posed by the steep terrain, high altitude, unfavorable weather conditions, in addition to Mount Mayon being under Alert Level 2.
The EDC said these factors have, so far, prevented the ground search and rescue teams from reaching the site.
Responders from Camalig’s Barangay Quiragay Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (BDRRMC), the Philippine Army, the Bureau of Fire Protection, and EDC have been deployed through two search and rescue teams that resumed their search on Sunday morning.
The company is likewise working in full force with its Emergency Response Teams (ERT) from its Bacon Manito geothermal facility in Bicol as well as its ERT from its Leyte, Negros, and Mount Apo geothermal facilities.
They have all departed from their respective locations this morning with vehicles and standard equipment and gadgets like drones.