Deadline for bus hostage sanctions against Manila stays, despite typhoon
Chief secretary says possible sanctions against Manila will not be delayed, even though nation is struggling to cope with aftermath of Haiyan
Tanna Chong and Lana Lam
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Hong Kong has "no plan" to delay possible economic sanctions against the Philippines over the Manila bus hostage crisis, despite the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would not extend the one-month deadline it set last week for the demands of survivors and victims' families to be addressed. Lam's comments were described as "cold and heartless'' by a Filipino community leader.
They came as President Xi Jinping phoned his Philippine counterpart Benigno Aquino to offer his condolences.
Haiyan has killed more than 2,000 and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
There is confusion over the toll, after Aquino suggested initial estimates of 10,000 deaths in Tacloban city alone had been fuelled by "emotion".
But aid workers fear the toll will rise rapidly as help has yet to reach remote areas hit by the typhoon. It is predicted the economic losses could total US$15 billion - 5 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.
Video: Chaos in stricken Philippine city amid wait for aid
Asked if possible sanctions over the hostage incident - in which a sacked Filipino policeman shot dead seven Hong Kong tourists and injured eight others - could be delayed, Lam said: "There's no such plan at the moment."
She added that the typhoon aid effort and the bus tragedy were "entirely separate issues".
"The hostage incident is an issue that we have been pursuing for quite some time," she said, while typhoon relief efforts were "a humanitarian act".
Benjamin Panganiban, co-director of the Philippine Association of Hong Kong, branded the decision "cold and heartless'' and said the deadline should be extended until after Christmas.
"It's a good gesture to give aid, but the government could go further by extending the deadline as it would show sympathy to the Filipino people, not the government," he added.
Tomorrow, the government will seek Legco approval for a HK$40 million injection to its disaster relief fund, which holds HK$9 million. Only a portion of the cash will go to the Philippines
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, a campaigner on behalf of the hostage tragedy families, agreed with Lam.
He said: "We cannot assume they are incapable of handling both the storm and the hostage follow-up at the same time."
But lawmaker Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, who is of Filipino Chinese descent, said the government should give Manila time to focus on the typhoon rescue operations.
He said: "The extent of the damage is similar to that of a tsunami and they need time to handle the aftermath."
Video: Philippine bus hostage-taking incident
Additional reporting by Raissa Robles and Teddy Ng