First Hong Kong hostage victim receives payout from Manila

HONG KONG (AFP) - A Hong Kong woman who was shot in the face during a deadly 2010 hostage crisis in the Philippines has become the first to receive a payout from Manila, as talks over threatened sanctions continue.

The Hong Kong government came in for harsh criticism for sticking to its sanctions threat, even after the Philippines was left devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

It is holding out for a formal apology from Manila over the hostage incident, which left eight Hong Kong tourists dead and seven injured after a former police officer hijacked a Manila tour bus.

But in a joint statement from the Hong Kong and Philippine governments, Philippine President Benigno Aquino agreed to give an undisclosed amount to 36-year-old victim Yik Siu-ling - who lost more than half her jaw in the shooting.

"President Aquino, having heard of the urgent need of Ms Yik for surgeries, instructed (his cabinet secretary) to turn over to the HKSAR Government an additional token of solidarity to defray the cost of imminent surgeries," the statement, published on Tuesday, said.

The compensation was donated from Filipino businessmen "as a manifestation of the Filipinos' humane consideration of the plight of the victims and their families", it said, without specifying the amount given.

There has been no indication yet from Hong Kong that it will drop potential sanctions against Manila.

But a separate statement issued by the Hong Kong government on Tuesday said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying believed "substantive progress on the Manila hostage-taking incident" had been made, following a meeting in the city between Philippine Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras and senior officials.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer said that the nation's government was going to announce "very concrete" steps in finding a solution to address the victims of the hostage incident.

"I assure you, in a few days - in a day or two - the Philippines will prove that we are not insensitive to the plight of the victims or rude and that we want peace, with everyone working together without feuds," Mr Almendras said, according to the newspaper.

Hong Kong's unpopular government is under pressure not to upset groups affected by the hostage situation.

Earlier in November, Leung said he would take "necessary actions to apply sanctions" if he did not see concrete steps taken to resolve the issue within a month.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has previously refused to apologise on behalf of the country for the Manila hostage situation, insisting the deaths were primarily caused by the actions of the hostage taker.

Hong Kong's lawmakers have mooted a cancellation of its visa-free arrangement for visitors from the Philippines as well as possible trade sanctions.

The city said on Friday it would contribute US$5.16 million (S$6.42 million) to a fund that could be used to help the typhoon-stricken Philippines.