Philippine president promises safety for Chinese tourists


MANILA – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday told Chinese ambassador Liu Jianchao that his government is ready to implement measures to ensure safety of Chinese tourists, and to extend all the necessary assistance to the survivors and relatives of the victims who have flown to Manila.

The President gave the same assurance to Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang during a 15-minute phone conversation, and reiterated his government’s “deep sorrow” over the death of eight Hong Kong tourists in Monday’s hostage-taking incident.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told a news briefing that the President held a one-on-one meeting with Liu, then an expanded meeting that included officials of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hong Kong officials.

Manila Police Chief Rodolfo Magtibay briefed Liu and his working team on the tragic incident.

“The ambassador was told of the steps that the Philippine government has taken,” Lacierda said.

He said that in response, Liu “thanked the President for his immediate attention on the matter and giving them the chance to meet with him, and also making sure that all the instrumentalities of the government are already in place to assist the victims.”

“We immediately agreed that we would be making sure that the safety of the Chinese tourists will be assured,” he said.

The President said he will reactivate “tourist police, security forces designed to protect the tourist areas” in tourist areas all over the country, Lacierda said.

He said that Liu “expressed appreciation for the swift attention given by the Philippine government.”

Lacierda also said that the Hong Kong officials asked the government to conduct an investigation into the incident, and to ” cooperate with the Hong Kong Working Group in the investigation to ensure that nothing like this would occur again.”

Lacierda said that the meeting might be enough to keep bilateral ties between the Philippines and China from getting strained.

“The President and the Ambassador had a good conversation. It was a very friendly discussion. Of course the Chinese Ambassador said that they want to see investigation report. And we said we would do it,” he said.

He also announced that President Aquino has declared Aug. 25, 2010 a national mourning day “in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong and the families of the slain”.

Aquino instructed all public institutions in the Philippines and embassies and consulates overseas to lower the Philippine flag to half mast on that day.