Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada will use a trip to Hong Kong next month to reiterate his apology for the 2010 bus hostage tragedy, after survivors and relatives of the killed rejected an apology he made soon after taking office.
Estrada, mayor since July, made the pledge during a South China Morning Post interview.
Up until last night, Hong Kong's Security Bureau had not been informed about his planned visit, a spokesman said.
Estrada did not say if a meeting with any of the 14 Hong Kong survivors, the bereaved or Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was on the agenda, but a meeting was being arranged with "a senior Hong Kong leader".
"I'll try to appease them, to renew our friendship with Hong Kong," he told the Post in an exclusive interview. "I'd say I'm very sorry for the unfortunate incident … I'll apologise for that.
"And as incumbent mayor of Manila, I'll want to assure them [similar tragedies] will not happen during my incumbency. I'll see to it that every Hong Kong [resident] is very safe here in Manila. I will appeal for the travel ban to be lifted."
Hong Kong has a black travel alert on the Philippines, which advises against all travel to the country. The alert has been in place since a rogue former policeman killed seven Hong Kong tourists and their guide, and injured seven others, in Manila's Rizal Park on August 23, 2010.
Estrada will visit Beijing and Hong Kong next month. In August, he apologised on a Cable News interview, but was criticised as insincere by survivors and relatives of the dead since he was not mayor at the time of the incident. Unfazed, he told reporters two weeks ago: "Even though I was not the mayor then, I will apologise on behalf of the people of Manila."
He confirmed to the Post his intention to visit, adding that even without an appointment with a Hong Kong official, he would still visit "to meet my kababayan (countrymen) and I want to go there so I can eat fresh seafood at Lei Yue Mun".
As for his Beijing trip, he said it was to "renew friendship" between the two governments, which signed a sister-city agreement in 2002. Presidential palace officials declined to comment on Estrada's trips, which apparently have not been cleared.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said Estrada could apologise for Manila officials but not for state-level officials. Officials including former interior and local governments undersecretary Rico Puno and former national police director general Jesus Versoza have been criticised in a report by Philippine Secretary for Justice Leila de Lima.
"Estrada is only Manila mayor and does not have the authority to apologise on behalf of the country," To said. He said Beijing should not renew the sister-city agreement until the four demands raised by the families were met - an apology, compensation, punishment for the officials responsible and improved tourist safety.
Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam