MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday said the Philippine government is very conscious of the need to repair relations with Hong Kong, which were marred by the August 23 hostage fiasco which saw 8 Hong Kong tourists killed.
“S’yempre kailangang unawain natin na kakaibang pangyayari ito lalo na sa mamamayan ng Hong Kong,” Aquino said.
During a panel interview with the media on Thursday, Aquino disclosed he had received a letter from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) which he found insulting.
However, he said he chose not to answer it and just let the tensions subside.
“Minabuti po natin na kapag may gustong umaway sa atin wag na muna nating awayin kaysa palakihin ang hidwaan,” he explained.
“Yung sulat na opisyal na galing sa gubyerno ng Hong Kong na sa ating tingin ay nakaka-insulto, ay hindi na rin po nating ni-respond. Idinaan na lang po natin sa kanilang People's Republic of China's government na iparating na hindi ho yata tama itong sulat na ipinadala o hindi natin nagustuhan natin yung tono,” he said.
Although the letter, which was addressed to him, was not strongly worded, Aquino said that “we were being told, in very minute detail, of what we were supposed to do”.
He, however, refused to disclose the signatory in the letter so as not to further aggravate the issue.
“Kung pwede, wag ko na lang hong palakihin yung insidente dahil na-avoid na ho natin,” he said.
The president said the government is also considering to provide assistance to the families of the victims in the hostage-taking incident.
“Sa pagre-repair po nito, may mga gusto tayong tulong doon sa mga napinsala nitong insidenteng ito. Naghihintay lang po tayo ng tamang timing para gawin po iyan,” he said.
He said he would rather call it as an "assistance" instead of "damages," which may be construed as an admission on the part of the government that it was at fault.
Aquino also reacted to criticisms published by a Chinese newspaper that stated the Philippines is the most chaotic country.
“Yung tayo po most chaotic, emotional outburst ho iyan. Sa mga karatig na bansa na lang po natin, yung suicide bombers ay nagiging pangkaraniwang eksperiyensa sa kanila. Sa atin naman po ay hindi,” he said.
“Ilalabas natin ang lahat ng corrective actions na ginawa natin para mapaganda yung maganda na at maiwasto yung mga maling dinatnan na natin para mabalik ang kumpiyansa ng ibang bansa na dito po sa Pilipinas maayos ang magnegosyo, maayos dumalaw,” said Aquino.
Noynoy reacts to ‘miscommunication’
Meanwhile, Aquino earlier said that it would not be necessary to change the protocol after Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang failed to contact him during the hostage crisis.
“Hindi naman siguro pwede na sasagutin natin lahat ng tatawag na nagsasabing sila ay ganitong tao. Pero palagay ko po i-liken natin kung meron po tayong governors ng Pilipinas na biglang magde-demand na kausapin si President Obama o kaya si Hu Jintao, hindi naman din siguro papayagan ng either the US government or the Chinese government na ganun-ganun lang po ‘yun ‘no,” he said.
Aquino clarified that the normal process for any government official who would want to get in touch with the President is to coordinate with the foreign ministry and set the arrangement for the call.
It can be recalled that Tsang was unable to contact Aquino to convey his request to prioritize the safety of the hostages at the height of the crisis last August 23.
“Yung pagtawag po ni Chief Executive Donald Tsang ay hindi po expected at hindi ho sigurado yung aking aide kung legitimate call ito. Nanigurado lang po na idaan natin ito sa protocol para sigurado,” Aquino said.
“At marami na nga ho tayong hina-handle that day—isama na rin po na ‘yung aking aide ay first time lang niya sigurong nasama sa crisis—baka dapat ang
kakulangan doon ay pinaalam sa DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] kung ano nga ang nangyari dito sa supposed call na ‘to,” he said.
Aquino, however, said that during the crisis, the Chinese Embassy’s number 2 man was already with officials of the Philippine government. He explained that the Chinese Ambassador was on home leave at that time.
“Kung may obligasyon po tayong dapat kausapin natural po yung gubyerno nila at mula noong umpisa, kasama na po yung number 2 ng Chinese embassy,” he said.
He added, “So he was the highest ranking official and that is the normal protocol: that we deal with the embassy when it concerns their nationals”.
The president also maintained that they immediately made efforts to contact Tsang the following day.
“The next day. Don’t forget that I finished interviewing Magtibay [Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay] Santiago [Leocadio Santiago], everybody else close to midnight kasi tinapos na nga muna di ba? Kailangan bang msagot muna ‘yung tanong ko o aasikasuhin ‘yung mga nasugatan? Tanong ko muna bago ‘yung security ng mga hostage na na-rescue na nga? Marami hong dapat gawin bago ko ho nalaman kung ano talaga ang nag-transpire doon bago ko masabi sa taong bayan,” explained Aquino.