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Benito LimPolitical analyst Benito Lim on the Quirino hostage fiasco, China, and Fil-Sino relations

For Benito Lim, politcal analyst and retired professor of political science, time heals all wounds.

But he admits, “The truth is we have lots of weaknesses. We have been scarred.”

On 23 August 2010, a horrified world looked on as news programs around the world showed live broadcasts of a former police officer with gripes against his superiors holding hostage passengers of a Hong Thai Travel tourist bus. The gruesome incident claimed the lives of eight Chinese tourists.

While the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) deliberated on the Quirino hostage fiasco, Philippine tourism, not very strong to begin with, suffered from the fallout. But what about trade relations with China? Lim talks to China Business.

What do you think of the way the Philippine government handled the aftermath of the hostage taking?
It was reported that they [the police] weren’t ready. The results were really bad, but we can no longer undo what has been done. I believe that the government is doing what it can to remedy the situation. This is evident through the current efforts of not just the IIRC but also every party involved in the tragedy. When we really try, it shows.

After all, this is not the first time this kind of situation has happened. I think it was just coincidental that the hostage taker took a foreign bus when it could have been any bus. An incident like that could happen anywhere. It was just unfortunate it had to happen here. And, unfortunately as well, we were not prepared.

Is there anything else we should do?
For now, I think, we are still trying to show the Chinese that we are doing our very best as a government with this isolated case. We have already apologized as well as admitted our own limitations. The only thing left is to move on and continue our relationship with them as one of their neighbors and trading partners in Asia.

How do you think China sees the Philippines after the incident?
Generally, I think we still have a good face to show as some ambassadors of China have presented. I think most of them already got the point that the Philippines is trying to resolve the matter and that we are already going over the different angles of the case.

For their part, I think they are assuming that we should just get on with it and learn from the incident so that it won’t happen again. Unfortunately, the incident showed not only the Chinese but the whole world as well how we [react to] that kind of crisis. The drama that unfolded wasn’t a good thing to show our partners. The truth is we have lots of weaknesses. We have been scarred. But the good thing is that our wounds as a nation are healing.

Have trade relations with China changed since the Quirino incident?
We are the third largest trading partner of China. China is also one of the fastest growing markets for Philippine exports. There maybe some aftereffects but, I think, not on any large economic scale. We are still good [trading] partners. Maybe, even better than some [other] Asian partners. We should just continue our partnership of economic cooperation with them. For now, let’s do our homework. We need to understand not only how we should interact with them better, but how we are going to fix things internally.

Do you think the IIRC has been effective?
Yes. Although, if we are going to [hold] some people criminally [liable], we have to wait on the judgment of the court. I believe it is just a matter of time. I do hope that after this incident the parties that were involved have already learned lots of lessons.

With reports from Heinz Brobo

Print ed: 11/10


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