Manila calls on H.K. to be 'sober' in dealing with bus tragedy

The Philippines on Wednesday called on Hong Kong officials to have a clear head and orderly mind in dealing with the botched Manila bus hostage crisis that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead in 2010.

"We call on the Hong Kong authorities to be sober and to reflect rationally on this issue," Raul Hernandez, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.

"We have done everything possible to resolve the issue and reach agreement," he said. "It will be unfortunate if the victims and their families will not be able to accept more generous gestures of solidarity from the Filipino people."

If Hong Kong will "signify acceptance" of such gestures, Hernandez said, "the Philippines is willing to convey these gestures for the benefit of the affected families as soon as possible."

"In line with Philippine foreign policy, we are committed to protecting and promoting the interests and welfare of overseas Filipinos in Hong Kong," Hernandez said.

The hostage taking was carried out by a dismissed police officer in an attempt to get his job back. He hijacked a tour bus carrying 25 people, including 20 tourists from Hong Kong.

The 11-hour hostage drama ended with the deaths of eight Hong Kong nationals and the lone hostage taker in a bungled police rescue.

On Thursday last week, the Philippines said it regrets Hong Kong's decision to impose sanctions against it for refusing to formally apologize for the tragedy.

Under the sanctions announced by Hong Kong on Jan. 29, the 14-day visa-free arrangement for Philippine diplomatic and official passport holders visiting Hong Kong will be suspended from Feb. 5.

Hernandez said the move was "unfortunate" considering the fact that his government has done its "utmost best" to resolve the issue. He said "substantive closure" has been achieved in terms of the Philippines "manifesting compassion" for the victims and families.

The Philippines has repeatedly refused to publicly apologize to Hong Kong.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino, in his meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chunying on the sidelines of a region in October last year, said the Philippines can only express regret and its sincerest apology over the tragedy.