MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday described as "unfortunate" Hong Kong's decision to scrap the visa-free arrangements for visiting Philippine diplomats and officials but reiterated that the Philippines will not apologize for the 2010 Manila hostage crisis.
The DFA said the country has been doing its best to put closure to the 2010 Manila bus hostage crisis. However, it said it will not apologize for the incident, which led to the deaths of several Hong Kong nationals.
“The Philippine government regrets the Hong Kong-SAR’s implementation of sanctions against the Philippines, particularly the requirement of visas usually given to Philippine officials…” Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
“The sanction is unfortunate because a substantive closure on the Quirino Grandstand had already been arrived at three years ago with the previous Hong Kong-SAR, the victims and their families,” he added.
Hernandez said the government responded immediately to an “appeal for compassion” sent last October.
“Additional tokens of solidarity have been pledged by the Filipino people at the behest of the Philippine government. These amounts being offered are substantially more than those previously accepted by the victims and their families,” he said.
He said the government was made to understand that the victims have already agreed to such “tokens.”
However, the DFA Spokesman said Hong Kong asked for a renegotiation and an apology "[which] the Philippines, as a sovereign nation, is not prepared to consider."
He said the country remains committed to “manifest compassion” and is ready to “turn over the additional tokens of solidarity from the Filipino people.”
Hernandez also assured the Filipino people that the government has done its best to address and put an end to the hostage crisis.
Hong Kong announced Wednesday it was imposing sanctions on the Philippines because of its "unacceptable" failure to apologize for the hostage crisis.
The current visa-free arrangement for visiting Philippine diplomats and officials will be suspended from February 5, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told a press conference.
Currently they are able to stay 14 days without a visa.
Leung described the move as the "first phase of sanctions" and said the government may take more action if it thinks it could be "effective" in securing an apology over the 2010 hostage-taking.
He added that every year, 700 to 800 diplomats or officials visit Hong Kong from the Philippines on the existing visa-free arrangement. – with Agence France-Presse