The Philippines is braced for a major tourism setback after eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed when a bus was hijacked in Manila by a sacked policeman armed with an M-16 assault rifle.
After the tragic 12-hour siege, Philippine police conceded they had committed a number of blunders during the incident, as outrage grew over the bloody assault that was played out on live television.
Commandos fired bullets into the tourist bus and smashed its windows with sledgehammers, but then waited outside for more than an hour as the hijacker used his captives as human shields.
The stand-off in Manila’s tourist district on Monday finally ended when police fired tear gas into the bus and a sniper shot the gunman in the head. But eight of the tourists had been killed out of 23 onboard.
The hijacker, a sacked policeman who was demanding his reinstatement in the force, also died, and a number of hostages were also injured.
Manila police commander Leocadio Santiago admitted mistakes had been made.
“We saw some obvious shortcomings in terms of capability and tactics used, or the procedure employed and we are now going to investigate this,” Santiago said on local television.
The Department of Tourism spokesperson and assistant secretary Bong Bengson said it is monitoring reports of confirmed cancellations in Hong Kong and other countries after the HK government issued a top level black travel alert for the Philippines.
However, Bengson explained that tour cancellations are of least concern for DoT as of the moment.
“Our main concern now is to extend help and support to the surviving victims. The DoT has mobilized resources to oversee the comfort and safe return of the tourists to Hong Kong,” he added.
In Cebu City, tourism stakeholders and tour operators have expressed worries about the expected negative effects of the hostage drama on the local tourism industry.
Jenny Franco, Chairman of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAs) in Cebu, told 888 News: “We got back our tourists after exerting so much efforts following the Abu Sayaff crisis in Mindanao and now we will definitely go back to scratch with the hostage incident in Manila.”