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HK accepts PH regret over 2010 hostage crisis

The bitter conflict with Hong Kong over the Manila hostage crisis in 2010 has been resolved with the national government offering its “sorrowful regret and sympathy” for the hostage incident, which the families of the victims have accepted, according to Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.

The families have accepted the government’s regret for the hostage crisis as well as its actions to prevent the incident from happening again, Almendras said.

Hong Kong and Philippines, Manila Bulletin

(L-R) Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Philippine Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Director of the Chief Executive’s Office Edward Yau Tang-wah pose during a meeting with regards to the 2010 Manila hostage incident at the Chief Executive’s Office in Hong Kong April 23, 2014. Hong Kong on Wednesday scrapped travel sanctions against the Philippines after Manila offered an apology and compensation for a hostage tragedy almost four years ago, settling a lengthy diplomatic spat between the two. REUTERS/Government Information Services Handout

The Philippines and Hong Kong resolved the conflict arising from the hostage crisis after the demands of the families, including tokens of solidarity as well as tourist safety measures, were met. The agreement was reached following a closed-door meeting among Philippine and Hong Kong officials as well as families of the victims. The Philippine team included Almendras and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

“Did I apologize for President Aquino? I did not say anything to that effect but I expressed certain emotions and certain things relative to that. But it was not an outright (apology),” Almendras said in a Malacañang press briefing.

“I have no authority to say ‘I am sorry on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines’ but we made sure that we addressed the issues,” said Almendras, the President’s pointman in fixing the country’s relations with Hong Kong.

Erap’s Role Cited

Almendras expressed gratitude to the entire Philippine team that facilitated the resolution of the conflict, particularly citing the key role of former President Estrada.

Apart from the letter of regret sent by Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to each of the families of the victims, Almendras said Estrada presented a city council resolution expressing apology for the incident. Estrada had made an apology in 2013 upon his election as mayor of Manila.

Asked why Estrada’s apology was accepted this time, Almendras conceded that the delivery and the tone are equally important to the message.

Almendras also thanked the Hong Kong panel involved in the discussion to iron out the conflict.

“We had good times, we had a lot of tough times, but in the end we came across. And I would like to acknowledge their professionalism,” he said.

Almendras said President Benigno S. Aquino III was “very happy” to learn that the Philippines and Hong Kong have resolved their differences regarding the hostage incident. He said the government now looks forward to the “beginning of a new journey” of normalized relations with Hong Kong.

“I’m sure with all the problems we have, every single solution, however small the problem is, if you solve it, it is one less thing to worry about,” Almendras said.

The Philippines and Hong Kong have agreed to put the bitter row behind them after demands for apology and compensation to families of the victims, among other matters, were addressed. Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung announced that they would lift the travel sanctions against the Philippines, including a visa arrangement for holders of official passports.

Almendras said Leung also extended his thanks to President Aquino and called him a “man of his word.” The Hong Kong leader also looks forward to “shaking the hands” of the Philippine president during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit later this year, he added.

He said the individual concerns of the families of victims varied. The families have different concerns and demands in order to attain closure and move on.  Not all families will accept tokens of solidarity for a number of reasons, he added.

Positive Dev’t For OFWs

Senators welcomed Hong Kong’s move to lift the sanctions it imposed against Philippine authorities after accepting a formal apology Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada extended to HK officials. Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said, this is a positive development for the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) based in Hong Kong, most of whom are working as domestic helpers.

Sen. Ma. Lourdes “Nancy” Binay said, “I share the joy with the Filipino people and the thousands of migrant workers in Hong Kong in celebrating the good news as the Hong Kong SAR government finally accepted the formal apology extended by former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada on behalf of the City of Manila to the families of the victims of the unfortunate incident in August 2010.”

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. extended his felicitations and gratitude to Mayor Estrada for assisting the government in putting closure to the the 2010 hostage crisis.

AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said he sees smooth sailing for free trade negotiations between the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Hong Kong.

Bungled Rescue Operation

At least eight Chinese nationals were killed while seven others were wounded in the bungled rescue operation when a former local police officer who was dismissed hijacked a tourist bus in 2010.

In a statement, the Hong Kong government said the four demands made by the victims and their families – an apology, compensation, sanctions against responsible officials and individuals, and tourist safety measures – will be resolved and settled.

Reports said the Philippine government will provide a total of HK$20 million in a compensation package for those who were injured and HK$1.5 million for each of the deceased. (With reports from Hannah L. Torregoza and Charissa M. Luci)