Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Philippines/Hong Kong: Update--Manila, HK Make Up, Re: 2010 Hostage Crisis, All Nations Need Tourism Police Organizations

According to The Associated Press, Hong Kong and the Philippines reached a compromise Wednesday (April 23) over Hong Kong's demands for an apology for the families of eight tourists killed in a bungled response to a 2010 Manila hostage-taking that soured relations.

The agreement comes after months of talks between Hong Kong and Philippine officials, including a visit this week by a delegation including Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, a top aide to Aquino and the national police chief.

While Estrada, a former Philippine president, has previously apologized to the families, President Aquino has expressed regret but has refused to apologize, saying the deranged former PNP (Philippine National Police) officer and not the state is to be blamed for the tragedy.

"The Philippine government expresses its most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy, and extends its most sincere condolences for the pain and suffering of the victims and their families," Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, told reporters.

COMMENT: It is impossible to speculate as to the lost revenue to the Philippine government since 2010, although it is safe to say that tourism losses easily run into the tens of millions of dollars.

The lesson-learned for both countries, and all countries actually, is for all foreign governments to take all reasonable steps to protect foreign tourists.

The statement avoided the word "apology," which had been a longstanding demand of the survivors and families of the victims. The Hong Kong government and a spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III both said the agreement was "mutually satisfactory."

The Philippine police chief has also written to the families.

The Hong Kong tourists were part of a group taken hostage on a Manila tour bus by a disgruntled former police officer.

The two sides had previously agreed on three other demands — compensation, holding responsible officials accountable and putting in place safety measures for tourists.

The agreement comes after months of talks between Hong Kong and Philippine officials, including a visit this week by a delegation including Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, a top aide to Aquino, and the national police chief.

Following Wednesday's announcement, the Hong Kong government has lifted travel sanctions against officials, as well as a harsh travel warning for the Philippines. 

In a related development, I strongly urge that all foreign governments form a Tourism Police organization based upon the following guidelines:

Just some of the productive steps that all nations can do to protect tourists include:

1. Establish an elite multilingual Tourism Police that is well-trained;

2. Appoint a respected,  highly-experienced police officer who is bi-lingual to direct the Tourism Police;

3. Provide multilingual security guide for all tourists;

4. Use distinctive signage to warn tourists of high-risk areas;

5.  Tourism police should be in a distinctive uniform and decentralized;

6. Tourism Police should have a web-based presence as well as in person; 

7. The Director of the Tourism Police should have established liaison at all embassies;  and

8. The Tourism Police should have a 24/7 Operations Center staffed by multilingual officers.

In terms of funding Tourism Police organizations and upgrading those that don't meet standards, developed nations can work through regional development banks to finance Tourism Police.