The Luneta hostage crisis and PH-HK relations

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When the crisis ended, Hong Kong and Chinese officials demanded an investigation, compensation for the victims, and an official apology.

Editor's note: Any opinions expressed here are solely the author's.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Diplomatic fallout from the government's mishandling of the Luneta hostage crisis soured Philippine relations with Hong Kong. It aggravated Manila's already strained relations with Beijing over their overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Outrage over the tragic death of eight foreigners in the nightmare that unfolded at the Quirino Grandstand on August 23, 2010 hounded the administration of President Benigno Aquino III for years.

As the hostage drama unfolded that day, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Donald Tsang had called the presidential palace in Manila. President Aquino, barely two months in office, did not take the call.

But he found the time in the early morning hours the following day to inspect the bus where 21 tourists from Hong Kong and four Filipinos had been taken hostage by a policeman with a professional grievance.

Negotiations to free all the hostage failed, sending the policeman on a shooting rampage.

When the crisis ended, Hong Kong and Chinese officials demanded an investigation, compensation for the victims, and an official apology. National flags were lowered to half mast.

The United States condemned the taking of innocent tourists as hostages. Canada, whose nationals were among those killed, issued a statement of condolences. The United Kingdom, who had citizens who survived the bloodbath, flew the Union flag at half mast at the embassy in its former colony and in Manila.

Then, Hong Kong imposed sanctions —issuing a travel ban against the Philippines, ordering its nationals who were in the country to return home, and revoking visa­-free privileges for Manila's government officials.

Angry Hong Kong employers threatened to fire their Filipino domestic helpers.

Local tourism would take a direct hit and tens of thousands of Filipino workers in Hong Kong stood to lose their jobs. The administration scrambled to appease Chinese officials.

President Aquino declared a national day of mourning, ordered flags in all government offices and foreign posts worldwide to fly the Philippine flag at half mast, and tried to send special envoys to Hong Kong.

Nothing worked.

The Chinese government insisted on an apology — but President Aquino refused.

After almost four years of deadlock, the diplomatic row was finally resolved in 2014 ­­ after Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras flew to Hong Kong and expressed "most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy" to the victims and their families.

All sanctions against the Philippines were then lifted.

Relations have since returned to normal and Filipino jobs in Hong Kong are safe. But the damage was done.

The Luneta incident had sparked doubts about President Aquino's capability to navigate the often rough and tricky waters of the Philippines' foreign affairs.