Philippine leader vows punishment in bus hijack

Philippine leader vows punishment in bus hijack Manila: The Philippine president vowed on Thursday to punish authorities who bungled a bus hostage crisis that killed eight Hong Kong tourists, toughening his stance after Asian powerhouse China expressed outrage and political rivals pummelled him with criticism.

The nearly 12-hour hostage drama at a historic Manila park stunned even this violence-prone Southeast Asian nation and delivered the first major crisis to President Benigno Aquino III less than two months into his six-year term.

Also today, the Philippine Senate began an inquiry into the hostage fiasco.

"Someone failed. Someone will pay," Aquino said during a speech before students and faculty at a suburban university. He called the carnage "ghastly" and admitted there were "many failures."

It was his strongest statement since a pre-dawn news conference hours after the end of the crisis when he told reporters, who asked if some police officials will be fired, that "it's unfair to prejudge them."

"My opinion might sway the (investigating) panel and hamper their efforts of ferreting out the truth," he said then.

In Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry pressed Manila to "complete the investigation of the matter as soon as possible."

Philippine officials have acknowledged the economic backlash on the Philippines after Hong Kong authorities urged its citizens not to travel to the country.

About 1,40,000 Hong Kong tourists visit the Philippines yearly.

National carrier Philippine Airlines said in a statement that at least 558 tourists from Hong Kong and China have cancelled their bookings.

Concerns also were raised about the fate and safety of more than 1,00,000 Filipinos working in Hong Kong, mostly as maids, who contributed to the USD 17.3 billion sent home in 2009 by about 9 million overseas Filipinos - remittances that help keep the economy afloat.