Still no Palace apology despite HK visa sanction

Natashya Gutierrez

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Vice President Jejomar Binay says he will continue to speak to the Hong Kong government to convince them to take back the sanction on visa-free privileges

STILL WAITING. In this 2011 file photo, relatives of the 8 dead Hong Kong nationals attend a ceremony at the Quirino grandstand, the site of the hostage-taking tragedy. Hong Kong has imposed sanctions on the Philippines after the government refuses to apologize for the hostage crisis. File photo by EPA/Dennis M Sabangan

MANILA, Philippines – Still no apology is forthcoming.

Despite Hong Kong’s latest sanction removing the visa-free privileges of Philippine diplomats, Malacañang said on Monday, February 3, the government’s position remained unchanged over the Luneta hostage taking incident in 2010.

President Benigno Aquino III has refused to apologize for the hostage of a bus that killed 8 Hong Kong tourists in Manila, saying it was the “act of one individual,” who was “probably mentally unstable.”

On Monday, his communications secretary, Herminio Coloma, said the Palace’s approach “is to continue on the path of seeking a solution.”

Starting on Wednesday, February 5, Philippine officials and diplomats will have to apply for visas to visit Hong Kong. China’s administrative region announced this “first phase of sanctions” on January 29.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Aquino’s refusal portrayed a “negative message.” (READ: HK to PH: Take ‘concrete steps’ or face sanctions)

But Coloma said Hong Kong “has no basis” for saying the Philippines does not respect Hong Kong’s stance because “until now, we continue to try and understand” their position.

Coloma said Aquino and Leung’s conversations on the sidelines of the APEC conference in Bali in 2013 led to an agreement to “bring about complete closure on the issue” by finding a solution agreeable to both sides. (READ: DFA on Erap’s HK apology: Aquino’s stand prevails)

“So everything we’re doing is toward that path, toward the path of mutual understanding, the path of accepting both sides and finding an acceptable solution,” he said.

Coloma also said the sanctions contradict the agreement of both parties to find a solution, but said the Palace is “still hoping that both sides will be able to reach agreement.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay expressed hope that overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong would not be affected by this latest sanction. He said he will continue to negotiate with the Hong Kong government to take back its decision.

Binay has appealed to Hong Kong to reconsider its visa sanction in the past week but to no avail.

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.