Hongkong has issued a top-level Black Travel Alert for the Philippines, following the bus hostage incident yesterday in Manila that left eight Hongkong tourists dead and two severely wounded.
Officials have urged all Hongkong tourists to avoid travelling to the Philippines, while those already there should be careful and consider returning to Hongkong. All tour groups to the country – a popular destination for Hongkong residents – have been banned from departing.
The government also arranged charter flights last night and early this morning for relatives of the hostages.
Hongkong Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, criticised the Philippine government’s handling of the siege. China has condemned the act and demanded the Philippine government to carry out a thorough investigation of the incident.
Rolando Mendoza, a 55-year old ex-police captain armed with a M-16 rifle, hijacked a tour bus carrying 25 travellers near Manila’s biggest park yesterday morning. He was trying to call attention to what he regarded as his unfair dismissal from the force due to alleged extortion activities.
Mendoza held the tour group hostage for 12 hours, negotiating with the police and releasing nine hostages in stages, mainly women and children. Talks collapsed shortly before 2100 and the ordeal ended in a shoot out with the SWAT team who eventually shot Mendoza dead.
Australia and the US have already issued travel advisories for the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, where the Islamic separatist militant groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf have staged belligerant activities against the Philippine government.