The government is standing firm on its decision not to apologize to Hong Kong authorities for the 2010 hostage crisis despite diplomatic sanctions Hong Kong officials warned they will impose.
“The Philippine Government regrets the Hong Kong SAR Government’s implementation of sanctions against the Philippines,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a statement on Thursday.
However, he said the Philippines “is not prepared to consider” an apology.
“The Philippines, as a sovereign nation, is not prepared to consider [giving an apology],” Hernandez said. “Our nation has already expressed its deepest regret and condolences over the incident and we are preparing to reiterate this.”
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced on Wednesday the current visa-free arrangement for visiting Philippine diplomats and officials would be suspended from February 5.
The diplomats are currently able to stay 14 days without a visa.
Filipino tourists and workers are not covered by the lifting of the visa-free travel privilege
Leung described the move as the “first phase of sanctions” and said the government may take more action if it thought it could be “effective” in securing an apology over the hostage-taking.
Hong Kong has been infuriated by the Philippines’ refusal to apologize for the incident in August 2010, in which a former local police officer hijacked a tour bus in Manila in protest at his sacking.
After negotiations broke down, eight people from Hong Kong were killed and seven wounded in a bungled rescue effort by security forces.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd has consistently rejected Hong Kong’s demands for an apology, saying the tragedy was caused by the hostage-taker.
The Philippines has already provided undisclosed financial compensation, with the money donated by private individuals.
Without specifically referring to money, Hernandez said the Philippines had responded to appeals for “compassion” from Hong Kong “without equivocation and in a most generous manner” and that more compensation was on its way.
Hernandez indicated that the Philippines had believed that recent pledges of more compensation, and their imminent delivery, had resolved the issue.
“We have been made to understand that the victims and their families have agreed to this offer,” he said, while holding firm that the compensation package and another expression of regret were the Philippines’ final position.
“To bring the issue to its final conclusion, the Philippines remains committed to manifest compassion for the victims and their families and is ready to turn over the additional tokens of solidarity from the Filipino people,” he said.
On Thursday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the DFA is doing what is necessary to ease the tension sparked by the sanctions.
“At face value and first impression, it seems that the effect [of the lifting of the visa-free privilege]is limited and will not affect Filipino workers there because they are not holders of diplomatic or official passports,” Coloma said.
Coloma said the government will work for a “mutually acceptable solution” to end the dispute.
“The Philippine government has exerted all efforts to address the Quirino Grandstand incident. Except for one unresolved matter, all of the demands and issues have been resolved by both parties,” he said.