Manila to offer 'generous' payout over bus tragedy

But latest effort to settle bus tragedy row fails to impress victims

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 4:13am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 4:13am

Manila hopes to settle the diplomatic rift between Manila and Hong Kong over the 2010 hostage bloodbath with a "generous" compensation payout, Philippine media reported yesterday.

But the initial reaction from survivors was one of fury that they were being offered money instead of an apology.

It comes just days after the city imposed its first sanction against a foreign state - cancelling visa-free arrangements for Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders.

The news also coincides with a report in the mainland Southern Metropolis Daily in which Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said it was "regrettable" he had not been able to come to Hong Kong to offer a formal apology as promised, blaming pressure from Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez was reported in Manila as saying the government hoped "the gesture of solidarity" would bring closure to the issue. He did not specify amounts.

"To put closure to this issue, we remain committed to extend additional and generous gestures of solidarity from the Filipino people," the Philippine Star reported Hernandez as saying.

"We hope that we will be allowed to do this at the soonest possible time."

Survivor Yik Siu-ling said it was unacceptable that Manila would attempt to settle the matter with money. "They should show some respect," she said. "People died, and it's not something that money can settle."

Yik, whose jaw was shattered in the gun rampage, said the Philippine authorities had not contacted her about the additional compensation. She received an undisclosed amount from the Philippines in November to cover the cost of reconstruction surgery in Taiwan.

Another survivor, Li Yick-biu, also rejected the idea of extra compensation. "They did a bad job, and they should shoulder responsibility by apologising."

Eight Hongkongers died in a botched rescue attempt after a former policeman hijacked their bus in Manila in August 2010 to demand his reinstatement.

Survivors and victims' relatives said an apology from Estrada last August was insincere.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is helping the families, said the money matter had already been settled, and the only thing that was lacking was an apology.