MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada left for Hong Kong on Tuesday, April 22, bringing with him an undisclosed amount of money as compensation for the families of the 8 Hong Kong tourists who died during the botched Quirino hostage taking crisis.
Speaking to reporters, Estrada said it was high time Philippine officials admit wrongdoing. “Aminin natin, nagkasala tayo. Walo ang nagbakasyon lang, napatay pa. Siyempre mag-apologize tayo, walang kalaban-laban ‘yung napatay,” he said.
(Let’s admit we’re at fault. There were 8 people who came here to have a vacation but were killed instead. Of course we should apologize – those who died were defenseless.)
Watch this report below.
A source from the Estrada camp earlier told Rappler that Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras would be joining Estrada when he meets with Hong Kong officials on April 24. Also part of the Philippine delegation, according to news reports, is Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima.
The source added that the Hong Kong meeting was initiated by Malacañang, although dialogue between Hong Kong and the Philippines was a “joint effort” by the Manila local government and the national government.
Almendras, however, told Rappler on Monday, April 21 would not be part of the trip.
On Tuesday, April 22, Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Malacanang hoped Estrada’s trip “will contribute to the national government’s efforts to achieve closure and a mutually satisfactory conclusion.”
Purisima is expected to give Hong Kong official updates on sanctions imposed on policemen who failed to rescue the 23 tourists during the hostage-taking incident on August 23, 2010. The head of the PNP will also be giving Hong Kong officials an official update of the country’s safety measures for tourists.
PNP Public Information Office head Chief Superintendent Theodore Sindac, however, told Rappler there was “no official word” on Purisima’s supposed role in the Hong Kong meeting.
President Benigno Aquino III has refused to officially apologize over the incident, saying it was the act of an individual.
HK, PH relations
Even in 2013, Estrada expressed his interest in heading to Hong Kong to apologize on behalf of the Philippine capital. The hostage-taking incident took place under his predecessor and political rival, Alfredo Lim. According to a report from the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, Lim was administratively liable for the mishandling of the situation.
Hong Kong and Philippine relations have since turned sour after the incident. A little after the incident, Hong Kong slapped a “severe threat” outbound travel alert on the Philippines. Early this year, Hong Kong announced its “first phase of sanctions” against the country, curbing the visa-free privilege of Philippine diplomats.
Estrada said he was worried the sanctions would eventually affect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) based in Hong Kong.
“[I’m] thinking of the 160,000 OFWs in Hong Kong and the number of families they support. What if their working visa is not renewed? Even if only 10% of them go back to Manila, that would be 16,000 jobless,” Estrada said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Estrada and 7 other Manila city councilors are expected to return to the Philippines by April 25. – Rappler.com