Hong Kong Votes to End Visa-Free Access to Filipinos

The Legislative Council of Hong Kong has voted in favour of an amendment requesting the Hong Kong SAR government to end the visa-free access enjoyed by Filipinos. In addition, the Council also voted in favour of a non-binding resolution that would impose economic sanctions against the Philippines over the Manila bus hostage crisis in 2010. But before any proposed sanctions will be implemented, the resolution still requires action from the Hong Kong SAR government.

Image Source: YourPhilippineVisa.com
The Council voted 41 to three including seven abstentions in favour of removing visa-free access to Filipinos. Leung Chun-Ying, Chief Executive of Hong Kong issued a warning earlier this week that sanctions would be imposed if Manila failed to meet the demands of the Hong Kong families whose members were killed by gunman Rolando Mendoza during the bus siege in a botched rescue attempt. The families are requesting an official apology by President Aquino, compensation to the families, penalization of officials for 'derelection of duty in the Philippine hostage incident,' and the adoption of corrective safety measures to be implemented by the Philippine government in order to protect tourists. 

According to a document posted on the website of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, "This Council calls on the public to unite and hold the Philippine Government responsible, and urges the Government to impose strong and forceful economic sanction measures, so as to press the Philippine Government to make a prompt and formal response to the four demands of the victims' families."

Since the incident, Hong Kong has imposed a black travel warning discouraging its residents from travelling to the Philippines. "Unless, within a month, there are concrete steps taken to resolve this issue, the government will take necessary actions to apply sanctions," said Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying. "I urge the Philippines government and/or the Manila municipal government to quickly come up with a proposal to respond to the families of the deceased and the requests of the injured."

Relations with Hong Kong nosedived following the incident after the apparent incompetence of the local police outraged residents of Hong Kong, a city that enjoys low crime rates. According to Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, the Philippine government is working quietly to achieve a result that is mutually satisfactory. Meanwhile, the travel warning for Hong Kong residents continues as city lawmakers prepare to impose trade sanctions and cancel the visa-free arrangement for Filipino travellers. 

In October, Joseph Estrada, Mayor of Manila, offered to issue an official apology for the hostage-taking incident. However, President Aquino refused to issue an apology on behalf of the country, insisting that the deaths were caused as a result of the actions of the hostage taker. But security experts and hostage negotiators around the world do not seem to agree with the conclusions of President Aquino. 

In 2011, National Geographic aired a documentary entitled "Inside: Manila Hostage Massacre" which revealed major shortcomings and drew heavy criticism of the Philippine government and the Philippine police force. Analysis of the event revealed that police were ill-equipped and ill-trained to manage the situation from missed opportunities to disarm and kill the gunman to being "laboriously slow" to break into the bus. The documentary highlighted at least five opportunities that police could have taken in order to resolve the situation. However, systemic failure and the role of the media ultimately contributed to the bloody ending. 

Danny Coulson, a former Hostage Rescue Team Commander for the FBI was featured in the documentary and suggested that the situation could have been easily resolved had authorities given Mendoza what he wanted. "At the very beginning, Mendoza said that if he was reinstated, he would get off the bus. They should have said that he would be reinstated immediately, but noted that doing so wouldn't have relieved him of the consequences of his actions," said Coulson. "There were so many ways that the situation could have been saved. The very first responsibility of a government is security. That's why societies come together - not for culture or education, but for security. As citizens, we have the right to expect that of governments, that our police forces be trained and equipped. We have the right to insist that our government will protect us above all else."

Meanwhile, MalacaƱang reiterated that the national government's position on the issue remains unchanged. Manila has offered compensation to each family of the deceased in the amount of US$75,000 each and up to US$150,000 to those that were injured. But the families involved will not accept the money stating that the amount was too low. The Philippine government plans to keep the lines of communication open with Hong Kong and is urging everyone to remain calm amidst the pending economic sanctions and removal of visa-free entry. 

"Our position remains the same: both sides are working quietly to address these concerns and reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion," said Herminio Coloma, Secretary of the Presidential Communications Office. He noted that with a mutually satisfactory conclusion, Manila will not bar Hong Kong tourists from entering the country without a visa. Coloma advised overseas Filipino workers residing in Hong Kong not to be disturbed as the Philippine government would assist them. "Their interest and welfare are not forgotten and we will continue to do what is right to protect their interests," said Coloma. He added that the main priority continues to be the continued pursuit of a mutually satisfactory conclusion being worked on by the two sides. "We are very focused and we are determined to achieve this," said Coloma. 

Approximately 160,000 Filipinos currently live in Hong Kong with the majority being employed as domestic helpers. In 2012, trade between Hong Kong and the Philippines reached $8.2 billion with Hong Kong being one of the country's top ten source markets for tourists. Filipinos with valid passports that are planning future travel to Hong Kong are being advised to monitor a number of websites for the latest up to date information. According to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, "All Philippine passport holders who have travel plans to Hong Kong should monitor the news regularly in view of proposals to suspend the 14-day visa-free entry of Philippine passport holders." Suggested websites include the Hong Kong Immigration Department and the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong. 

If a mutually satisfactory resolution is not met soon, lawmakers have approved a resolution calling for the following sanctions:
  • Suspend a new round of negotiations in areas like air freedom rights and trade
  • Suspend the procurement of Philippine products
  • Suspend all dealings with the Philippine government with the exception of the hostage incident
  • Suspend invitations to Philippine Cultural Organizations for Arts & Cultural Activities 
  • Suspend friendship exchanges and liaison with the Philippine Congress
  • Recommendations for a public boycott of Philippine goods and suspension of commercial and cultural exchanges with the Philippines by members of the Hong Kong commercial sector and community

3 comments:

  1. epal talaga ang mga intsik n yan

    ReplyDelete
  2. CX a hong kong owned and based airline WILL SURELY SUFFER......

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really appreciate this journal and that i can positive promote this journal to others in my circle.

    ReplyDelete

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