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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In his first public response to Hong Kong’s “first phase of sanctions” against the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III made it crystal clear: there will be no apology to Hong Kong from the Philippines.
In an article in the New York Times published on Wednesday, February 5, Aquino reiterated his stance that the Philippines would not apologize to Hong Kong for a 2010 hostage crisis in Manila that led to the death of 8 Hong Kong tourists.
The article was released the same day Hong Kong’s sanction on visa-free entry for Philippine government officials and diplomats takes place. Starting Wednesday red and blue official passport holders will have to apply for visas to visit Hong Kong.
Aquino told the Times that an apology to Hong Kong could create a legal liability, adding China has not paid compensation to the families of Filipino victims who died in the mainland.
In a separate statement, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said Manila has “done everything possible to resolve the issue and reach agreement.”
“We call on the Hong Kong authorities to be sober and to reflect rationally on this issue,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said. “In line with Philippine foreign policy, we are committed to protecting and promoting the interests and welfare of overseas Filipinos in Hong Kong.”
Earlier this week, the Palace said it will continue to work with Hong Kong to find a solution acceptable to both sides.
In the Times interview, Aquino also appealed for international support against China, in the two countries’ dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Aquino compared the Philippines’ situation to that of Czechoslovakia’s in World War II. The latter lost Sudetenland in 1938 to the demands of a much stronger Germany, because of what Aquino reasoned was the West’s failure to support it.
“If we say yes to something we believe is wrong now, what guarantee is there that the wrong will not be further exacerbated down the line?” he was quoted by the article as saying.
He added, “At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough’? Well, the world has to say it — remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”
The Times called Aquino’s statement “among the strongest indications yet of alarm among Asian heads of state about China’s military buildup and territorial ambitions.”
As early as 2012, Aquino warned his country’s neighbors they should fear Beijing’s growing aggressiveness over its claims in the South China Sea. At that time, Manila and Beijing were locked in a standoff over Scarborough, a group of islands in the South China Sea.
China uses the 9-dash line, a demarcation mark, to claim virtually the whole South China Sea.
The 9-dash line overlaps with the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others, within its EEZ. – Rappler.com