PH keeping open lines with HK, says Palace

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2014 03:43 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2014 11:53 PM

MANILA - The Philippines continues to “engage” with Hong Kong despite the decision to cancel visa-free access to Filipino diplomatic and official passport holders.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma declined, however, to disclose the details of these “dialogues,” only saying that these are meant to achieve “closure” to the 2010 Manila hostage crisis.
“We are still continuing to engage each other. Both parties are continuing dialogues and conversations that, hopefully, would lead to achieving mutually satisfactory results and a closure,” Coloma said.
“I am not able at this time to tell you what are the specific items in the agenda that are being discussed, or if that particular object of your inquiry is, in fact, in the agenda. All I can say is that we are purposively pursuing avenues for possible attainment of closure on this matter.”

The Palace spokesman said the government is focused on being able to provide direct support to the affected families in the 2010 Manila hostage crisis.

He said this is part of the framework for reaching and understanding.

"This framework was developed after the direct conversations between President Aquino and the Hong Kong Chief Executive,” he added, referring to the meeting of the two leaders on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Bali in October.

The Philippines earlier said it would not apologize for a 2010 hostage crisis in which Hong Kong tourists died, saying its response to the tragedy had been generous and compassionate.

The statement came after the Hong Kong government announced it would impose diplomatic sanctions against the Philippines because of its "unacceptable" failure to apologize.

"The Philippine Government regrets the Hong Kong SAR Government's implementation of sanctions against the Philippines," foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a statement.

However he said the Philippines "is not prepared to consider" an apology.

Rather, the Philippines would reiterate its "deepest regret and condolences," while providing more compensation to the survivors and the victims' relatives.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying earlier said the current visa-free arrangement for visiting Philippine diplomats and officials would be suspended from February 5.

They are currently 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 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 Manila tour bus 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 Philippine security forces. With Agence France-Presse