China has given the Philippines a grant of 500 million yuan (US$79.5 million) to help rebuild the battle-scarred Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte said in Hong Kong on Thursday.
The city was badly damaged during a five-month battle last year with militants who supported ISIS and tried to take over the southern city.
On Thursday evening at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong, Duterte spoke to about 2,000 Filipinos, telling them he had met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Boao Forum in Hainan, China, on Tuesday. Duterte was on his second visit to Hong Kong since the first in May last year.
“China has been very, very good to us. I got a grant of 500 million yuan, which is about 4 billion pesos,” Duterte said. “I will prioritize our hospitals and Marawi, because that is really the job of the government,” he said. In May 2017, China offered a grant of 500 million yuan for the construction of two bridges and a drug rehabilitation center.
The event on Thursday started with opening remarks from Antonio Morales, the Philippine Consul General in Hong Kong. Morales welcomed Duterte and expressed his gratitude to the president for returning and meeting the thousands of Filipinos in Hong Kong.
Duterte, who gave an hour-long speech, said the Philippines was now a safer place as there has been a decrease in drug usage, crime and terrorism. “Do not worry about our country, we are safe, we are good,” he said.
Prior to his speech, Duterte joined a Filipina singer on stage.
Apology to victims of 2010 Manila hostage crisis
Duterte also made a public apology to the victims of the 2010 Manila bus hostage crisis. He said there has been no official apology from the Philippines over the incident and used the opportunity to formally apologize to the Chinese government.
On August 23, 2010, a bus carrying 20 tourists and a tour guide from Hong Kong and four Filipinos was hijacked in Manila by Rolando Mendoza, a former Philippine National Police officer. A Philippine SWAT Team failed to stop Mendoza from killing eight of the Hong Kong tourists.
“From the bottom of my heart, as the president of the Republic of the Philippines, and on behalf of the people of the Philippines, may I apologize formally to you now,” he said.
“We are sorry that the incident happened, and as humanly possible, I would like to make a guarantee that this will never happen again. I hope this would go a long way to really assuage the feeling of the Chinese people,” he said.
Duterte said the apology was “necessary” as lives were lost. “It is only right as lives were lost under our jurisdiction,” he said.
Benigno Aquino III, the then Philippine President, refused to meet Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, the former Hong Kong chief executive, to talk about the incident. He claimed it was not appropriate for the leader of a country to meet with the chief of a Chinese city.
Three years after the incident, in 2013, then Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying sought help from Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who asked Aquino to settle the case. Aquino met Leung, but refused to issue an apology. The Philippine government handed over a sum of money donated by the Filipino business community to the victims’ families.
Duterte left Hong Kong on Thursday evening for Davao City.