My Take

No winners as Manila bus hostage row finally ends

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 3:58am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 3:58am

Hong Kong can finally normalise relations with the Philippines. It never made much sense to ensnare our entire community and government over the Manila bus hostage crisis. But that we did. Contrary to the inflammatory front page of a certain local Chinese-language newspaper yesterday, the settlement reached this week between the families of the victims and the Philippine government should be welcome.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino made a complete mess in the handling of the aftermath of the killings more than three years ago. He has steadfastly refused to offer an apology. In the event, the official statement of "most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy" was the best the victims' families could get. With much reluctance, they have wisely accepted it, along with undisclosed amounts for compensation.

The central government and the Leung Chun-ying administration will think they have been vindicated in putting pressure on Manila through public criticism and imposing sanctions against Philippine officials. Indeed, it's doubtful the Philippine government would have responded positively if they had not raised the issue to the level of a diplomatic spat.

But it has hardly been a shining moment for Leung. Our government maintained the "black" travel warning solely as a means to exert political pressure, thereby compromising the integrity of this travel alert system.

It announced sanctions last year just as the Philippines was being devastated by a super-typhoon. That made us look vindictive and petty. Now that we have reached a settlement, both the questionable black travel alert and sanctions have thankfully been lifted.

Leung jumped on the bandwagon of public sentiment by adopting heavy-handed measures against the Philippines. But like much else his government does, he will get no credit for taking measures that have public support, only blame when things go wrong.

With its maritime disputes with Manila, Beijing opportunistically exploited the hostage crisis to add to the pressure. It has achieved that purpose but won't be getting any praise from Hong Kong. There are no winners. But at least all of us can move on while the families find closure.