Philippine News, Hong Kong – Hong Kong and the Philippines have reached a compromise over demands for an apology from the Philippine’s Government to the families of eight tourists killed in a failed hostage rescue attempt in 2010.
In a statement, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said “The Philippine government expresses its most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy, and extends its most sincere condolences for the pain and suffering of the victims and their families.”
However, the statement carefully avoided the word “apology”, which had been a longstanding demand of the survivors and families of the victims. President Aquino had previously resisted apologizing, due to the legal implications of offering a state apology for an illegal act by one Filipino.
Manila Mayor and former President, Joseph Estrada, traveled to Hong Kong on Tuesday to meet with officials and the relatives of victims to offer compensation and an apology on behalf of Manila. He was accompanied by former Finance Secretary Jose Pardo and Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, an aide to President Aquino. The Philippine police chief has also written to the families.
The tourists were part of a group taken hostage on a Manila tour bus by a disgruntled former police officer. Manila police tried to storm the bus, but eight Hong Kong tourists were killed, as well as the hostage taker.
Tse Chi-kin, the brother of tour guide Masa Tse who was killed the incident, described the phrase “sorrowful regret” as being “marginally acceptable.”
“It’s still an apology,” Estrada told reporters. “We feel sorry for what happened.”
In return, Hong Kong has agreed to lift the ‘black’ travel rating against the Philippines, which advised Hong Kong travelers to “avoid all travel.” The rating placed the Philippines in the same risk group as Syria, a country currently being ravaged by an all-out civil war. The threat level has now been downgraded to an amber alert which carries the lesser warning of “exercise caution”.
Hong Kong tourism to the Philippines had fallen for a while after the killings, though that was likely due to shock over the incident itself, rather than the travel alert. By 2012, the number of Hong Kong tourists to the Philippines was almost back to pre-incident levels.
Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said tourist numbers from Hong Kong had been rising even before the black travel alert was lifted. He noted that Hong Kong is among the country’s top 10 tourist sources. Referring to the number of Hong Kong visitors, he told reporters “Even before the amber alert, and before the upgrade, it was already growing slightly but of course we didn’t want to flaunt it. It will now grow a lot faster.”