Talks relating to the Manila hostage tragedy have been dealt a blow with the Philippines insisting it will only express "sorrow" and not make an apology.
This comes as progress is reported toward seeking compensation of HK$20 million arising from the killing of eight Hong Kong citizens on a tourist bus hijacked by a rogue cop in August 2010.
Another two demands - that negligent Philippine officials be punished and tourist safety safeguarded - have already been agreed.
A spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office refused to comment on the issue, which was reported in a Chinese-language newspaper yesterday.
"The chief executive will announce to the public when there is substantial progress," he said.
Survivors and families of those who died in the August 23 tragedy were told about the "sorrow" wording at a meeting with Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok on Tuesday night.
Despite Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying earlier expressing hope of substantial progress soon, a source said the Philippine government will only use the word sorrow in response to demands instead of an apology which families have long demanded.
Families and survivors do not accept sorrow, and demand the government continues its negotiations.
The Philippine government had already used the word sorrow three years ago, they said.
A source said the government has told the families it will fight for an apology, stressing that sanctions against Manila are still a bargaining chip in the negotiations.
It has also been reported that the Philippine government has asked the families whether they will accept an apology from the interior minister.
Manila is apparently willing to offer compensation of more than HK$20 million.
Furthermore, it will punish officials found to be negligent on the day of the tragedy and pledges to secure the safety of tourists.
Earlier, lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who has been helping survivors and families of the victims, expressed hope that the issue could be resolved before Christmas.
Tse Chi-kin, the elder brother of slain tourist guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, said he is also confident the issue can be settled.