• Tue
  • Oct 21, 2014
  • Updated: 8:00am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Beijing best placed to handle rift between Philippines and Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:12am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 10:07am

The survivors and families of victims of the tourist bus shooting in Manila almost three-and-a-half years ago deserve an apology from the Philippine government. But sanctions are not the way to go about getting it. Our city has limited leverage and Philippine President Benigno Aquino has no political need or will to respond. Beijing, responsible for foreign policy and armed with diplomatic resources and skills, is best suited to gaining the closure that is so sorely needed.

Retaliatory measures imposed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying against Philippine diplomats and officials take effect today. Diplomatic passport holders will have to submit personal financial information in advance before visiting or transiting Hong Kong. But like the black travel warning, put in place in the wake of the bungled rescue attempt by Philippine National Police of the tourists taken hostage by a dismissed policeman, the sanctions will have limited impact. Just 800 Filipinos are likely to be affected by the visa sanctions each year.

The steps come after the failure of yet another round of talks between Hong Kong and Philippine officials to resolve demands for a top-level apology, compensation, punishment of those responsible and better tourist safety. Leung has promised tougher measures if the sanctions are ineffective. The nature of relations between our city and the Philippines is such, though, that there is little more Leung's government can do. Taking aim at imports, businesspeople or domestic helpers would hurt Hong Kong as well as the Philippines.

Hong Kong has little experience in such matters; these are the first sanctions our city has imposed against a foreign government. The Philippines is no stranger to such actions, though, having in the past been embroiled in diplomatic disputes with mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, among others. Aquino's office has ruled out tit-for-tat sanctions, but he has shown no signs of acceding to Hong Kong's demands. High approval ratings, strong economic growth data for the Philippines and a solid congressional majority are cause for confidence, not concern.

The shootings took place on Aquino's watch; he should apologise for his officials' incompetence. With his unwillingness to do what is right, efforts for resolution need the help of an entity with diplomatic clout. China has that aplenty through being the Philippines' third-biggest trading partner and a growing source of investment and tourism.


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This article is now closed to comments

CY Leung is stepping up and going to bat for the hostages and their family. The family deserves a apology and one from the highest order with the way things turned out on lived TV shown throughout the world. This incident caught on live TV will forever be engrained in human history as a failure of EPIC proportions. Anything less then a apology from the highest order would and should be deemed as insufficient.
The Philippines thinks just because Hong Kong employs 160,000 OFWs that were are in dire need of them or our economy will collapse. All I can say is B@LL S@IT. Remember, Hong Kong was and still is a prosperous society even before the OFWs came. If we ban all OFWs, sure things may need arrangements in the present but I'm sure you can find replacements for all the OFWs from other SE Asian countries. We have gone from employing 200,000 OFWs to 160,000 in just a matter of years.
Read this article in regards to the Taiwan Fisherman incident with the Philippines. If they can't find jobs for the 80,000 OFWs in Taiwans, what makes you think they can find jobs for the 160,000 OFWs in Hong Kong?
There's still plenty HK can do on its own such as a gradual ban on Filipino OFWs as their contracts end and be replaced by other foreign workers. Require OFW earnings to be limited on what they can remit. Levy an airport tax on all flights incoming from the Philippines.
The Philippines act as if they are in the right but they are dragging their feet which is why it's become an issue of an apology. Compensation to the victims were not forthcoming and only happened after much haggling and nudging. Even then, that compensation came from private donations. None of the criminal charges recommended by its own IIRC ever came to fruition, almost all reduced to administrative charges, a joke. One never sees justice in that country.
If Beijing steps in, be careful what you ask for. It has far less patience that HK has shown with the Philippines.
One will NEVER see justice from a country that is ranked as one of the MOST CORRUPT in the world:
Why on earth should the Philippines government apologise? They did not shoot the Hongkongers. All HK has done is look stupid in this saga. Like a petulant child, they have made unrealistic demands and now look foolish when the Philippines just ignores them (including HK's petty visa restriction rules). The article touches on the key point, which the Philippines is well aware - HK can't do anything more because it relies on a constant stream of domestic helpers in order to function properly. If it weren't for these helpers, life in HK would grind to a standstill as housewives and spoilt children have to try and function for themselves. The way HK has acted in this is a very good argument for why Beijing should remain in charge of HK foreign affairs. No government official in HK has any idea how to play the diplomat game.


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