HONG KONG, April 23 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government expressed its most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy, and extended its most sincere condolences for the pain and suffering of the victims and their families in the bus hostage crisis that happened in Manila in August 2010, according to a joint statement issued by the government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Philippine government here on Wednesday.
Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR C Y Leung and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III made a mutually satisfactory conclusion to the crisis, and both governments have agreed with the four demands of the victims and their families for apology, compensation, sanctions against responsible officials and individuals, and improvement of tourist safety, according to the statement.
In the spirit of solidarity and in acknowledgment of the loss of the victims and their families, it said, an additional token of solidarity will be given to the victims or their families as a most sincere gesture of compassion of the people of the Philippines.
The Philippine government has assured the Hong Kong government that measures are being taken to hold to account those responsible and to see the outstanding proceedings conclude as soon as possible, said the statement, adding the Philippine government undertakes to keep the Hong Kong government informed of progress made in resolving the outstanding proceedings.
The Philippine government has also assured the Hong Kong government that it is committed to ensuring that such an incident will not occur again.
On Aug. 23, 2010, a sacked Philippine police officer hijacked a bus with 21 Hong Kong tourists on board. The 11-hour hostage crisis ended with eight Hong Kong tourists killed and the hostage taker shot in a bungled police rescue.
For more than three years, survivors and relatives of the victims have been demanding an apology from the Philippine government, an offer of compensation, punishment for the officials responsible for the bungled police operation and improvement in tourist safety. But the Philippine government had never offered an apology or compensation.
Mayor of Manila Joseph Estrada, who is visiting Hong Kong, met C Y Leung on Wednesday to offer apology on behalf of the Philippine government, and to give compensation to victims of the crisis.
Leung told the media that the two governments have reached agreement on how to resolve the hostage crisis, and he accepted the apology on behalf of the Hong Kong government, adding the relations between Hong Kong and the Philippines will "return to a normal level."
Leung said the Hong Kong government will lift a sanction, imposed since February, which restrains visa-free entry for Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders.
He also said Hong Kong adjusted the Outbound Travel Alert for the Philippines to "Amber" from "Black" on Wednesday, given the Philippine government has taken measures to protect the safety of tourists.
Estrada told the media that the Philippines will offer 20 million HK dollars (2.6 million U.S. dollars) as compensation for the victims and their families.
Estrada, who arrived here on Tuesday, said the apology was on behalf of the Philippine government.
Tse Chi-kin, brother of Hong Kong tour guide Masa Tse Ting- chunn, who was killed in the tragedy, expressed his gratitude for China's central government, the Hong Kong government, Hong Kong citizens and the media for all the help, adding "this has all come to an end."
One of the survivors, Yik Siu-ling, who was shot in the face during the crisis, said she accepted the apology from the Philippine government as the appeal had lasted for years and she does not want to get involved any longer.
According to an annex attached to the joint statement, actions have been taken on 10 responsible Philippine individuals, including the on-scene commander, Manila Police Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay, who was compulsorily retired in March 2011 with all retirement benefits withheld until final resolution of the case.
Orlando Yebra, chief negotiator and Manila police superintendent, was found culpable for gross incompetence, and received heavier penalty of one rank demotion after three months' suspension.
Others include the overall assault team leader, Manila Police Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual, Manila Police Director Leocadio Santiago and former Mayor of Manila Alfredo Lim, according to the annex.
To improve tourist safety, the Philippines launched a National Tourist-Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection training program in December 2010, with more than 2,800 police personnel trained as of March 2013.
In addition, the Philippine National Police activated a Crisis Action Force in June 2011, an interim elite unit composed of personnel from the Special Action Force, Maritime Group and Aviation Security Group.