Friday, 9 May 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, April 24, 2014

Philippine-Hong Kong relations start new chapter, says HK leader

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying said he believes putting closure to the Manila hostage-taking incident that happened nearly four years ago means a fresh start in Philippine-Hong Kong relations.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Leung said that despite the amount of time that has passed since the incident occurred, the sufferings of the victims and their families remain close to the hearts of the Hong Kong people.

“With the final resolution of the incident, I sincerely hope that the deceased may rest in peace, and the injured and their families can move on with courage and strength,” Leung said.

“I also believe that the bilateral relations between the peoples of Hong Kong and the Philippines will start a new chapter.”

Leung said that since meeting President Benigno S. Aquino III in Bali, Indonesia in October 2013, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government has been holding discussions with the Philippine government to find a mutually satisfactory resolution to the four demands made by the victims and their families.

The demands were an apology from the Philippine government, compensation, sanctions against responsible officials and individuals, and improved tourist safety.

In the consensus reached by the governments of the Philippines and Hong Kong, together with the victims’ families, the four demands have already been met, Leung said.

According to the joint statement issued by the two sides, the Philippine government expressed its most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy to the victims’ families.

In the spirit of solidarity and in acknowledgement of the loss of the victims and their families, the Philippine government promised an additional token of solidarity to the victims or their families.

The Philippine government has also provided the Hong Kong government details on the administrative and criminal proceedings pursued, and gave an assurance that measures are being undertaken to hold to account those responsible.

Concerning tourist safety measures, the Philippine government made an assurance that it is committed to ensuring that such an incident will not happen again and vowed to carry out stricter tourist safety measures.

With the resolution of the issue, Leung lifted the sanction against the Philippines to immediately start normal bilateral relations.

He also reinstated the 14-day visa-free arrangement applicable to holders of diplomatic or official passports of the Republic of the Philippines for visiting Hong Kong.

The Black Outbound Travel Alert against the Philippines was also lifted with the Outbound Travel Alert being applied to the Philippines reverted to Amber, as was the case before the hostage-taking incident. PND (as)

Enough security preparations in place for Obama visit, says Palace

The government said enough security preparations are being made for the visit of US President Barack Obama on Monday as militant organizations threaten more protest action.

“We are preparing, as we will prepare (for) any visiting head of state. They are here as our guests, and as host, we will provide them the necessary security,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday.

Asked by reporters if the Palace worries about possible problems from these militant groups, Lacierda said the government expects mass actions from groups opposing President Obama’s visit to the country and is thus carrying out necessary security measures.

President Obama and President Aquino will be talking about defense, trade and security matters, the Palace official said.

“These are the three things that matter regarding our relations with the United States, so those things will be discussed,” he said.

The US leader, who arrived in Japan on Wednesday, is on a four-nation Asian tour to reassure allies of US commitment to the Asia Pacific.

The visit highlights the US’ “pivot to Asia”, as announced by the Obama administration a few years ago. It aims to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.

President Obama’s other stops will be South Korea and Malaysia. PND (as)

Luneta hostage-taking issue ends with a win-win solution: Palace

The Luneta hostage-taking issue that strained Philippine and Hong Kong relations for almost four years has ended with a win-win solution, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said Thursday.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, Secretary Almendras said that both the Philippine and Hong Kong governments have satisfied the demands of the victims and their families.

“We all came out winners,” he said.

In August 2010, 21 tourists from Hong Kong were held hostage by a dismissed policeman inside a bus at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta. Eight tourists died and several others were wounded after a botched rescue.

Since then, the Hong Kong Government and the victims and their families had sought an official apology from the Philippine Government, compensation, sanctions against responsible officials and individuals, and improved tourist safety measures.

The victims and their families will be given a “token of solidarity”, Secretary Almendras said, noting that the words “token of solidarity” were used to replace “compensation,” given the sensitivity of the issue.

He said not all the victims’ families are going to accept the token because some of them do not believe that it is appropriate for them to accept money.

Secretary Alemendras refused to state the exact amount of the token of solidarity, having promised the families of the victims that he would not reveal it due to the sensitivity of the issue in Hong Kong.

He however said that not a single peso or Hong Kong dollar came from either the Philippine or Hong Kong governments.

The amount came from “businessmen, ordinary citizens, people who cared, even people who were close to certain people in organizations,” he said, adding that the victims’ families will receive the token within the week.

He further said that Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying expressed his gratitude to President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“Please tell President Aquino, I thank him very much and I must acknowledge that he is truly a man of his word,” he quoted the Hong Kong chief executive as saying.

The Cabinet Secretary earlier apologized for the secrecy surrounding his series of trips to Hong Kong because “there was a lot of emotion and a lot of sensitivity to families and persons who were involved.”

“There were 21 victims, 21 families, 21 lives, 21 different perspectives, 21 different opinions,” he said.

“Hindi po one size fits all. Every single consideration po, every member of the family or every victim’s family had to be put in place,” he added.

With the resolution of the hostage-taking incident, Hong Kong lifted the sanction that require Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders to apply for visas when visiting Hong Kong, as well as the “black” travel alert that warned Hong Kong citizens against travelling to the Philippines.

Secretary Almendras said the issue is now closed. “Once and for all, completely, absolutely, tapos na ito,” he said. PND (ag)

Injured Hong Kong tourist thanks President Aquino for helping her recover

A Hong Kong tourist who was injured during the hostage-taking incident in Manila more than three years ago, thanked the Aquino government for helping her undergo reconstructive surgery, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said on Thursday.

Secretary Almendras, who is the government’s point person between the Philippines and Hong Kong, said that Yik Siu-ling thanked the President for helping her recover from the tragedy.

Yik was hit by a bullet in the jaw during the incident.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Chun Yin Leung mentioned Yik during his discussion with President Aquino in Indonesia last year and the President decided to extend her some assistance, according to Secretary Almendras.

Leung made a graphic description of Yik’s injury, prompting the President to act, he said.

The Cabinet Secretary said that when he met Yik in Hong Kong, he told her that it was her story and circumstances that prompted the Philippine government to reopen the discussions on the issue.

He said he went to Hong Kong last November to arrange for Yik’s surgery in Taipei.

“We arranged for certain facilities and then she was able to leave for Taipei to get her surgery, which was very successful and she did say thank you,” Almendras told reporters.

Yik’s recent statement is a far cry from what she was saying in the past, he said.

The Philippine government was extra cautious in dealing with the victims and their families, considering the sensitivity of the hostage-taking issue.

This is the reason why the Philippine government is not using the word “compensation” when referring to monetary assistance for the victims, Almendras noted.

“I need to let you know. Not all the families are going to accept the token of solidarity. Why? Because some of them do not believe that it is appropriate for them to accept money in exchange for this; and we are truly, truly appreciative of that,” he said.

Leung announced on Wednesday that Hong Kong has lifted the sanctions imposed on the Philippines.

And as both sides bring closure to the issue, Leung said the Philippines and Hong Kong could now start a new chapter in their relations. PND (as)