Philippine President Benigno Aquino

Aquino has ‘no plans’ to apologise over Manila bus tragedy despite sanctions

Philippine president says apology could create legal liability as diplomatic restrictions come into effect

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 2:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 April, 2015, 5:21pm

Philippine President Benigno Aquino says he has no plans to apologise to Hong Kong over the Manila bus hostage incident, as Hong Kong’s diplomatic sanctions against Manila take effect on Wednesday.

The Philippine leader gave his first public response to the sanctions in an interview with The New York Times.

Hong Kong has cancelled 14-day visa-free arrangements for visiting Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders, retaliation for Manila’s refusal to offer an official apology to the Hong Kong victims of the 2010 tragedy.

But Aquino told the Times that he had no plans to apologise, as doing so could create a legal liability.

The Philippine president also noted that China had not paid compensation to the families of Filipinos who have died in episodes there, the Times reported.

In Hong Kong, financial services legislator Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, a native of the Philippines, said the Hong Kong government’s sanctions were suitable.

“The business community in the Philippines is concerned about whether Hong Kong will take further actions, which may affect business and trade between the two places,” Cheung said. “But they do feel that the president should apologise to pacify the [victims’] families.”

Executive councillor and legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said on Wednesday that she did not expect Manila to make further concessions and it was possible there could be some twists in the lingering saga after Aquino’s term expires in 2016.

Aquino is prevented by law from seeking re-election when his six-year term expires.

Ip said very careful consideration would be needed before the government escalated its sanctions.

“If our sanctions affect the Filipino maids, the Philippine government could retaliate,” said Ip, adding that it was unlikely Hong Kong could ban Philippine imports because of a single incident as Hong Kong is a member of the World Trade Organisation.

Democrat James To Kun-sun, who is helping the families of the victims and survivors of the incident, said the sanctions sent a clear message to the Philippine government that Hong Kong could back up strong words with actions.

He also said it was too early to talk about further sanctions.

“We should trust the government and allow it more time. We also need to allow Manila time to weigh their options,” said To, who said the families were standing firm on their demand for an official apology from Aquino.

People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip called for tougher measures – including banning Filipino maids from working in the city.

The family members of the survivors and victims have also asked for compensation for the incident.