MANILA (3rd Update, 4:25 p.m.) -- The United States and China condemned the hostage crisis that killed Hong Kong tourists Monday in the Philippines' capital, with the Chinese government demanding answers and thorough investigation on the incident.
The hostage drama, which lasted for almost 12 hours, took place in front of Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, after a dismissed police officer who had been demanding his job back hijacked a Hong Thai Travel bus loaded with foreigners and three Filipinos.
Eight of the Hong Kong tourists were killed in the incident, as well as the hostage taker identified as former police officer Rolando Mendoza, police reports said.
The hostage taker was killed when police stormed the vehicle and a sniper shot him dead.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who called his Filipino counterpart, Alberto Romulo, to voice concern, said his government was "appalled" while Hong Kong residents expressed outrage and media outlets in the Chinese territory as they denounced Philippine police as incompetent.
"The Chinese government demands the Philippine government launch a thorough investigation into the incident and inform the Chinese side of related details as soon as possible," Yang said, according to a statement posted on his ministry's website.
United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. said the American government condemned the hostage taking. He expressed his condolences to the victims and their families.
For US Embassy Manila spokesman Rebecca Brown Thompson, Monday's hostage incident is disappointing and condemnable.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrible incident and their families. We condemn this terrible act and the harm it has caused for innocent people," she said in an email to Sun.Star.
At the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong, a wealthy former British colony unaccustomed to violence, several dozen protesters chanted: "Strongly condemn the Philippine government for being careless about human life!"
Philippine police, however, defended their action but promised to review all events leading to the deaths.
"There will be an internal audit. We will look at whether what we did was right," national police spokesman Agrimero Cruz told The Associated Press.
"Of course, what happened was far from ideal. Nevertheless, we are congratulating our personnel because despite the lack of equipment... they risked life and limb," he said.
President Benigno Aquino III, faced with his first major crisis since taking office in June, said the incident showed the need for more police training and better equipment.
"How can I be satisfied when there were people who died?" Aquino told reporters late Monday.
Some police commandos lacked helmets and appropriate communication equipment, and the team had no ladder vehicle to help climb aboard the seized bus while storming it — shortcomings that hampered a speedy response.
With the incident, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said the hostage crisis would likely damage the Philippine's tourism industry.
"We will have cancellations," he told The Associated Press early Tuesday in a Manila hospital, where some of the former hostages were confined. "I'm hoping it will be forgotten soon enough."
Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang said he was "disappointed" at how the incident was handled. His government canceled planned tour groups to Philippines and asked Hong Kong tourists in the country to leave.
Tsang told reporters that one of the survivors was in serious condition with a head wound.
Chinese Embassy spokesman Ethan Sun Yi said a chartered plane was available to fly survivors home.
Many Hong Kong newspapers printed mastheads in black out of respect for the victims, and flags in the territory flew at half-staff.
"Filipino police incompetent," Hong Kong's Ming Pao Daily News said in a front page headline.
"Clearly, if local police used more decisive and professional rescue methods, maybe the bloody tragedy could have been avoided," the Hong Kong Economic Journal said in an editorial on Tuesday.
The South China Morning Post called the killings "a wake-up call" for the Philippines to boost security and take gun-control measures. (AP/Sunnex)