MANILA, Philippines – The mayor of Manila flew to Hong Kong Tuesday to apologize to the families of eight Hong Kong tourists who were killed in a mishandled hostage taking in 2010 which soured relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said other officials, including a top aide of President Benigno Aquino III and the national police chief, are joining him on the trip. The delegation hopes to meet Hong Kong's chief executive Leung Chun-ying and other Hong Kong officials. It was not immediately clear if the Philippine national officials will also offer an apology.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News Channel while before his flight, Estrada said the trip was a joint effort of the national government and Manila, with Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima representing Aquino and the national government.
Estrada said he would offer an "apology for this unfortunate incident more than three years ago," adding he wanted to help protect the jobs of 160,000 Filipino workers in Hong Kong.
The income from the workers is an important source of foreign currency for the Philippines, but relations have soured because of the bungled rescue of the tourists, who were taken hostage on a Manila tour bus by a disgruntled former police officer.
Estrada said he would also offer "some sort of compensation" to the families of the victims.
While Estrada as Manila mayor has previously apologized to the families, Aquino has expressed regret but has refused to apologize.
In February, the Hong Kong government ended visa-free visits by holders of official Philippine government passport. Ordinary Filipino travelers were not affected.
The Foreign Affairs Department said at the time that the Philippines regretted the Hong Kong move but added it could not accept a demand that it apologize for the deaths of the tourists.
Estrada said Tuesday that Aquino was not at fault and that blame should be put on the previous Manila mayor who supervised the police rescue.