All that Philippine President Benigno Aquino III was willing to convey was an expression of regret. The apology that Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chunying wanted never came.
That summed up the 30-minute meeting between Aquino and Leung on Monday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in Bali.
The meeting came more than three years after eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bungled hostage rescue operation at Manila's Rizal Park, where a Filipino policeman and a Chinese tourist guide were also killed.
The closest Leung got to an apology was an expression of condolences from Aquino, who was less than two months in office when the hostage crisis occurred in August 2010.
"But we do extend our sincerest condolences. Again, we expressed our deepest regret that it's so contrary to how we treat visitors in our country," Aquino told Philippine media on Monday night.
On whether Leung accepted the regrets, Aquino said: "He mentioned something like, 'We recognise that in your culture personal fault is what you apologise for.' I guess that's the closest comment he actually delivered."
Journalists kicked out
The meeting took place a day after a group of Hong Kong journalists were kicked out of the Apec premises for badgering Aquino with questions about the hostage incident.
That the group was shouting at him "didn't seem right," Aquino said.
"Wherever we go, we are expected to conform to certain norms of behaviour," the president said in light of criticisms that revoking the journalists' Apec accreditation was tantamount to curtailing press freedom.
Aquino said the meeting with Leung produced a "clarification as … to why the perception of each side is such."
"So we are working to put that behind us," Aquino said. "I got the sense they really were sincere in trying to come to a solution to that incident."