Lawmaker suggests sanctions if Manila bus tragedy talks drag on
A Hong Kong lawmaker representing the families of victims and survivors of the Manila bus tragedy on Friday suggested introducing sanctions against the Philippines if no significant progress was made in talks within a reasonable time.
James To Kun-sun, wrapping up a two-day talk with a Manila negotiator in Hong Kong, said differences between both sides had narrowed after the latest negotiations, in particular on tourist safety issues in Manila and punishment for Philippine officials.
On Thursday, the Hong Kong government, the victims’ families and Manila city councillor Bernardito Ang said in a joint statement that they had inched closer to a possible compensation deal after their second meeting. Ang has left Hong Kong.
The families and survivors are also demanding a formal apology from the Philippine government and compensation over the hostage crisis in August 2010. Eight Hong Kong tourists were killed after being taken hostage onboard a coach by a sacked policeman, who was then shot dead in a bungled rescue effort.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said on Friday the government would continue negotiations with the Philippines but should not set a timetable for when discussions should end.
But To said Hong Kong should continue to prepare itself for possibly introducing sanctions despite the result of the latest negotiations.
“We should not stop discussing sanction plans simply because we were holding talks,” he said. “If no real progress is made within a reasonable time, say a month, we should introduce the first phase of sanctions,” the Democratic Party legislator said on Friday.
To said the sanctions could be stepped up gradually to pressure the Philippine side. He said these could include suspending visa waiving arrangements with the Philippines, a suggestion made by legislator and New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.
Asked about Ip’s suggestion, Lai said the issue would be discussed in the Legislative Council in due course. He said the government would listen to legislators’ views before giving its response.
Lai said there was some progress in the latest meetings. “This is a complicated issue. Otherwise it would not have gone on for three years,” he added.