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Phil., HK settle row over 2010 hostage crisis

Manila, Philippines — The Hong Kong government has lifted the sanctions it imposed on the Philippines, including the black travel alert, over a bus hostage crisis that left eight of its nationals killed in front of Quirino Grandstand in 2010.

In a text message sent by Manila Councilor Marlon Lacson, he said the Hong Kong government finally accepted the apology offered by the Philippine government.

A post in the official website of the Hong Kong government said the two governments have “agreed to resolve the 2010 Manila hostage tragedy.”

“The four demands made by the victims and their families on apology, compensation, sanctions against responsible officials and individuals, and tourist safety measures will be resolved and settled,” said a joint statement released by the Hong Kong government.

Hong Kong had been infuriated by the Philippines’ response to the incident in August, 2010, in which a former local police officer hijacked a Manila tourist bus in protest at his sacking.

Eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed and seven wounded in a bungled rescue effort by Filipino policemen.

President Benigno S. Aquino III had consistently rejected Hong Kong’s demands for an apology, saying the tragedy was caused by the hostage-taker.

The statement released by Hong Kong on Wednesday said the issue of an apology had been settled by the Philippine government expressing “its most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy.”

However, the statement did not specifically mention a formal apology from the Philippine government.

The Philippines had already provided undisclosed financial compensation to victims and their relatives, with the money donated by private individuals.

While the compensation amount offered by Manila has not been disclosed publicly, media reports said it was around HK$20 million ($2.6 million).

“It is reasonable and acceptable,” said James To, a lawmaker representing the victims’ relatives, of the compensation.

Wednesday’s statement said more financial compensation would be given, although there were no details.

“An additional token of solidarity will be given to the victims or their families as a most sincere gesture of compassion of the people of the Philippines,” the statement said without disclosing the amount families and victims will receive.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and other Philippine officials, including Lacson and Manila Councilor Edward Maceda left for Hong Kong last April 22 in a bid to settle the four-year-old issue.

Early this year, Hong Kong officials canceled the visa-free access for Filipino diplomats as another sanction for the failure of the Philippine government to offer a formal apology over the incident.

Last year, Estrada made an apology in his capacity as Manila mayor. This was supported by a resolution passed by the city council. (With a report from Reuters)