Philippines' hostage row with Hong Kong ends

Agence France-Presse;

Posted at Apr 23 2014 05:22 PM | Updated as of Apr 24 2014 06:35 AM

Philippines gives P115M to hostage-taking victims, families

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) -The Hong Kong government said Wednesday a long-running dispute with the Philippines over a deadly hostage crisis had ended following a deal on an apology and compensation.

The agreement will see Hong Kong lift diplomatic sanctions it imposed on the Philippines in February in a bid to extract what it deemed an appropriate response to the tragedy in 2010.

"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.

Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the news, saying all sanctions against the Philippines have been lifted.

In an interview with ANC, Estrada said Hong Kong has lifted the black travel alert it imposed on the Philippines following the hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand. This is effective immediately.

In a separate press release, the Hong Kong government said it has adjusted the travel alert to “amber.”

This means that “Hong Kong residents who intend to visit the country or are already there should monitor the situation, exercise caution and attend to personal safety.”

It said its Security Bureau will continue to monitor the situation in the Philippines.

Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung announced he is also lifting sanctions imposed last January that suspended the visa-free access of Philippine officials traveling to Hong Kong.

Estrada said the apology was a “joint effort” of the national government and the city of Manila. He said Malacanang was represented by Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.

“It was a very, very fruitful and successful resolution of the case because they gave me an audience,” Estrada said of his meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung and other officials there.

“The most important is that our relations with Hong Kong are now back to normal,” he said.

He noted the Hong Kong officials also promised to protect the OFWs there. In turn, the Philippines also promised the same protection will be given to Hong Kong tourists.

In a separate statement, the DFA said it welcomes the development. “The Philippines looks forward to working with the Hong Kong SAR government in turning a new page in bilateral relations.”

Profound sympathy

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 tour bus in protest at his sacking.

Eight people from Hong Kong were killed and seven wounded in a bungled rescue effort by Philippine security forces.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino 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.

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.

The Philippines government will offer HK$1.5 million ($193,482) for each of the deceased and HK$3 million for the injured in a compensation package which would total HK$20 million (around P115 million), Estrada told ANC on Tuesday.

The Philippine government also said it had taken measures to "hold to account those responsible", adding that it was ensuring such an incident will not occur in the future, according to the statement.