A Fokker plane carrying 34 passengers and crew crashed into Manila Bay shortly after take-off early today. At least two people were killed and 17 survivors were rescued from the water.
Divers were searching in murky water 50 feet (15m) deep for the wreckage and the 15 missing people.
Joggers along the bay said the plane sounded as if it was having engine trouble as it tried to gain altitude before plunging into the water.
Adelberto Yap, chief of air transportation for the Philippines, said the Laoag International Airlines plane went down in shallow water and broke up.
He said the Fokker 27 was carrying 29 passengers and a crew of five when it took off shortly after 6am (10pm yesterday British time) on a scheduled flight to the northern Philippine city of Laoag, a gambling centre, about an hour's trip from Manila.
Witnesses said fishing boats rushed to the scene to pick up survivors.
"We were jogging when we noticed the plane with a strange-sounding engine," the jogger Raymund Cayetano said. "It veered toward the sea. There was no smoke. Instead of going up, it hurtled downward. The last that we saw of it was the tail."