"It takes two to tango". That was the response by a spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino to a clarification by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on the type of apology the families of the Manila hostage crisis victims are demanding.
Leung yesterday rejected reports that suggested the families were demanding a personal apology from Aquino for criminal acts committed by sacked police officer Rolando Mendoza in 2010.
"I must explain clearly that the families of the victims are not demanding, and have never demanded, that the Philippine president apologise for the behaviour of the individual," he said.
Watch: Philippine bus hostage-taking incident
"They are seeking an apology from the Philippine government for the failure and lapses of their officials in handling the rescue operation, during which eight Hong Kong residents lost their lives and seven others sustained injuries."
Asked whether it was possible the Philippine government would issue an apology in the light of Leung's clarification, presidential communications secretary Sonny Coloma replied: "We have an alternative [solution] that we are proposing and this is subject to further talks."
He did not elaborate.
He added: "What we are looking at and what we want is closure.
"That's why we're doing everything we can do to reach that.
"And we are also trying to arrive at an understanding, because it takes two to tango."
Mendoza took 22 Hong Kong tourists and three Filipinos captive on a tour bus in 2010.
He shot dead seven tourists and their guide before being killed in a bungled rescue.
Yesterday, Leung also urged the Philippine government to show more sincerity in resolving the incident in order to avoid further sanctions.
The government has already cancelled the 14-day visa-free arrangements for visiting Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders.
In Manila, city councillor Bernardito Ang, who visited Hong Kong in late October for talks with officials and victims' families, said an apology from the Philippine government was now the only thing holding up the resolution of the impasse.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post yesterday, Ang said he was poised to visit Hong Kong next week because "the mayor [of Manila Joseph Estrada] has asked me to go back to Hong Kong to renegotiate".
"We have to talk to the family members. That's most important," he said, adding that he was arranging a meeting with survivors, their families and Hong Kong officials.
Ang also said that in his previous conversations with some family members, "they said nothing about the president personally apologising".
He said the families had told him in his earlier visit to Hong Kong that "anyone who can represent the national government can apologise for the wrongdoing of the national government officials in the handling of the rescue".