Philippines counts cost of China’s fury at deaths

Although it would appear that the hostage situation in the Philippines was completely mishandled, one would not think that China’s reaction to the loss of eight tourists would be as severe as it has been.

This is not to belittle the loss of human life, for had just one tourist died in the clash it would have been one too many. But I simply would not have thought that a country such as China, where they can’t even protect their own grade school children from being hacked to death by knife-wielding crazy people, would take such a hard position against an allied nation. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By HRVOJE HRANJSKI, Associated Press Writer Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press Writer

MANILA, Philippines – Tens of thousands of people have marched in Hong Kong to denounce the Philippines. Thousands of tourists canceled flight and hotel bookings. Two Chinese recipients of Asia’s most prestigious award failed to show up for the Manila ceremony.

After a violent hostage drama that killed eight tourists from Hong Kong, Asian powerhouse China is angry and the Philippines can do little to restore calm.

Barely two months into his presidency that promised to rid the Philippines of corrupt and incompetent officials, President Benigno Aquino III asked for China’s forgiveness while vowing that “someone will pay” for the embarrassing official handling of the 11-hour hostage-taking Aug. 23 that unfolded live on television.

The gunman, a dismissed policeman demanding his job back, was accused of killing the eight tourists before police snipers finished him off. Survivors said he became enraged after watching on TV inside the bus as police handcuffed his brother for interfering in the negotiations.

“Bring out the truth. Let those responsible, whoever they may be, be held accountable. No whitewash. No scapegoats,” Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said in a memorial service held with Buddhist monks Tuesday at the site of the carnage in a historic Manila park.

As Aquino assured Chinese officials of a thorough investigation that is expected to take two to three weeks, China’s fury took its toll. Flag carrier Philippine Airlines and budget airline Cebu Pacific reported more than 1,000 cancelations from the Chinese territory of Hong Kong alone.

“It created a domino effect,” said PAL spokeswoman Cielo Villaluna. “We are hoping that the situation will be temporary.”

In the prime beach resort of Boracay, hundreds of Chinese tourists scrapped their bookings, said regional tourism director Edwin Trompeta. Losses could top half a million dollars, he said.

Emotions ran high in Hong Kong on Sunday when about 20 legislators led some 80,000 people in a march that “shows the anger and unity of the Hong Kong people,” lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said. Hong Kongers blasted Manila police for what they called an amateurish rescue attempt.

“Everyone saw how the Philippine government mishandled the situation before TV cameras and the chaos in the country. As a Chinese person, I need to demand justice,” 49-year-old worker Andy Wong said.

In another setback, two of three Chinese recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, named after a popular Philippine president and considered as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, failed to show up in the Philippines for a gala ceremony scheduled for Tuesday evening in Manila.

Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation President Carmencita Abella said one of them, local official Fu Qiping, was reported to be sick and another, Pan Yue, vice minister at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, did not reply.

“We respect the sensitivities of the Chinese. We understand we are now in a situation wherein they are demanding some measure of justice,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Although the bungled police response incensed people in both China and the Philippines, the fallout did not involve any high-level policy issues, Filipino political analyst Ramon Casiple said.

“In a wider context both sides did not want an escalation because there are no policy issues,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s not in China’s long-term interest to fight the Philippines and vice versa.”

“But the danger of an escalation is still there. The Philippines should avoid provocative actions and ensure a transparent investigation that will satisfy this call for justice,” he said.

China is the country’s third largest trading partner after the U.S. and Japan. Two-way trade reached $6.7 billion last year.

It has been one of the major investors too, although two major contracts under the previous administration to build a telecommunication and a railways network fell through amid suspicion that Philippine officials received kickbacks. China had denied any wrongdoing.


Associated Press writers Jim Gomez and Oliver Teves in Manila and Min Lee in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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