By Joyce Pangco Panares | Oct. 09, 2013 at 12:07am
Bali — President Benigno Aquino III and Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying on Tuesday agreed to take steps to “put behind” the botched rescue attempt by Manila police that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead and seven others injured at the Rizal Park in 2010.
At Leung’s request, Aquino agreed to schedule a dialog with the survivors of the hostage-taking incident and the families of those who perished in it.
Leung said the dialog could be at the level of the Filipino consul-general in Hong Kong, but Aquino said his administration “will perhaps go further than that” and send Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to lead it.
Leung made his statement even as China urged the Philippines to work out a proper solution to the strained relations between Manila and Hong Kong as a result of the hostage-taking incident.
In a statement, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China supported the Hong Kong government’s decision to keep coordinating and communicating with the Philippines over the issue.
“We urge the Philippine government to pay high attention to the requirements and concerns of the families of the victims,” Hua said.
On Aug. 23, 2010, dismissed police officer Rolando Mendoza took hostage a bus full of Hong Kong tourists, killing eight of the tourists and injuring seven more of them.
Mendoza was subsequently killed during a botched rescue attempt that led the survivors and relatives of those killed in the incident to demand an apology from the Philippine government.
The incident prompted the Hong Kong government to issue a black travel warning to Hong Kong residents to stop them from traveling to the Philippines. That warning has yet to be lifted.
Aquino and Leung’s 30-minute meeting, which was initiated by Leung, came a day after Aquino was heckled by three three Hong Kong journalists before a plenary meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Nusa Dua on Sunday afternoon.
The reporters repeatedly asked Aquino if the Philippine government would apologize for the Rizal Park incident that happened three years ago.
“It was their perspective versus our perspective,” Aquino said.
“I think the meeting led to a clarification as to what each side has been doing. We are working to put that behind us.”
Aquino said he got the sense during his meeting with Leung that Hong Kong wanted to reach a “solution” to the 2010 incident.
“They pointed out to us that after three years, those who must be held accountable have not yet been punished. We explained to them what processes are involved,” Aquino said.
He said the Philippines had not offered a formal apology to Hong Kong authorities because its officials believed there was only one person responsible for the incident and that person was the gunman. With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan
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