PH should revoke HK execs' visa-free access, says solon

Posted at 02/04/14 4:49 PM

MANILA - A Philippine lawmaker on Tuesday is urging the government to revoke the visa-free access of Hong Kong officials to the country after the former British colony imposed the same sanctions on Philippine officials.

Quezon City Rep. Winnie Castelo said the Philippines must not stand for the embarrassment and the bullying of Hong Kong.

Castelo said he wants the Philippines to retaliate against Hong Kong by revoking their officials' visa-free access to the Philippines.

He dismissed speculations that Hong Kong's insistence on a public apology over the Manila hostage crisis may be connected to China's claims over the West Philippine Sea.

Lawmakers on Tuesday asked the Aquino administration to bring closure to the 2010 Manila hostage crisis while being split on the matter of giving an official apology to Hong Kong for the deaths of 8 Hong Kong tourists during the crisis.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Al Francis Bichara, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Relations, said it is up to the government to negotiate the closure while keeping open the possibility of government apologizing for the incident, which saw a sacked police officer take hostage a bus full of tourists.

A government operation to rescue the hostages led to the deaths of the 8 Hong Kong tourists and the hostage-taker.

Bichara reasoned that Hong Kong may impose stiffer sanctions on the Philippines after revoking the visa-free access of Philippine government officials and diplomats traveling on official business.

"Kung magkaipitan, pwede mo naman sabihin: 'Para di maipit ang workers sa Hong Kong, I will do this for you.' You can also wait until yung major pain darating sa atin. Pag nasaktan na ang workers sa Hong Kong, mawawalan ka ng option.We can go for tit for tat. Ang problema, they can always up the ante. Tayo, may taya, mga workers natin. Sino ba lugi doon?" he asked.

Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene Bag-Ao expressed fears of a backlash on overseas Filipino workers in the former British crown colony.

Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, however, said he does not support the idea of an apology. He said the Hong Kong government has not apologized for violent incidents that harmed Filipinos in their territory.

The lawmaker said he is also for a closure to the matter.

Bichara said he will leave the matter to the President, saying the President is the architect of foreign policy.

He, however, reminded the public that Filipino workers can always be replaced by workers of other nationalities like Indonesians.