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Luneta hostage-taking issue

Malacanang: Luneta hostage-taking issue is now closed

Luneta hostage-taking issue
Luneta hostage-taking issue

MANILA, Philippines – 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 2013, 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.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.