President Benigno Aquino III is upholding the Philippine government’s position not to extend a formal apology to Hong Kong for the August 2010 Rizal Park hostage crisis which left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.
This was despite plans by former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to go to the Chinese special administrative region to do just that, a move supported by a city council resolution passed Tuesday.
The resolution suggested that Estrada’s apology was tied to his plan to revive Manila’s Chinatown by attracting visitors and fresh investments. “As a former head of state, Estrada understands the importance of tourism in the nation’s economy,” it said.
The Aug. 23, 2010, incident happened during the term of then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Estrada’s predecessor.
But in a forum Wednesday, Mr. Aquino recalled that he had already made his position clear to Chun-Ying, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit two weeks ago in Bali, Indonesia.
“Our position is the act of one individual, (who) is probably mentally unstable at that point in time, should not be construed as the act of the entire country,” he said, referring to the hostage taker Rolando Mendoza, the dismissed policeman who was also killed in the bungled rescue operation.
“Therefore, we have again reiterated our utmost regret as to what has happened,” the President stressed.
“I think I talked to him about the Hong Kong issue. I talked to the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR… wherein he explained their perspectives and I explained our perspectives,” he said.
“He acknowledged that, in our culture, when we apologize it is for a fault. It is for an offense (made) by one person. He explained that in their culture, for instance, there was this ferry tragedy recently wherein the head of the regulatory agency apologized to the entire community,” he said.
“We offered again our condolences to all who suffered and died. But there are limitations from… a legalistic point of view as to how far we can go. And I can’t say that we had the meeting of the minds, but I think both of us understood each other’s positions better after the discussion,” Mr. Aquino added.
He noted that “all the appropriate charges” had been filed against 10 officials held responsible for the mishandled negotiation and rescue attempt.
The President also balked at suggestions that the government offer compensation to the heirs of the victims.
Members of the Philippine business community had actually offered a “solidarity fund” for the victims, he recalled. “Now, when you say compensation, again there is wrong visited by the state on these individuals, that it was policy to harm them, and that is not correct.”
The President made the remarks when asked for his views on the Manila resolution.