Philippine Congressman Winston Castelo calls for retaliation against Hong Kong in hostage tragedy row

Congressman calls for sanctions against Hong Kong in response to end of officials' visa-free arrangement as hostage tragedy row deepens

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 February, 2014, 9:23am

A Philippine congressman has called for retaliatory sanctions against Hong Kong, a move that threatens to escalate the dispute over the Manila hostage tragedy.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced on Wednesday that Hong Kong would cancel 14-day visa-free arrangements for Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders after Manila failed to respond to all of its demands over the 2010 bus siege, in which eight Hongkongers died.

Watch: The 2010 Philippine hostage-taking incident

It is Hong Kong's first-ever sanctions against a foreign country, but the measures are unlikely to force Philippine President Benigno Aquino to back down.

In Manila, Congressman Winston Castelo, a member of Aquino's party, yesterday called on the president to retaliate.

"We don't know yet their [Hong Kong's] plans about extending the sanctions to our ordinary citizens, but we should come out with our retaliation," Castelo was quoted as saying by the Philippine Star.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple told the South China Morning Post that Congress - which is packed with Aquino's allies - would certainly support the president's refusal to apologise because "it is a very partisan issue".

He said lawmakers might even pass a resolution urging the Philippine government to impose similar sanctions against Hong Kong.

Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said many lawmakers believed retaliatory sanctions could pressure Hong Kong officials to reopen dialogue with Manila.

He accused Leung's administration of trying to escalate the issue "in order to find its place in the world". But Casiple said he believed the Philippine side would "tread lightly" given that there were more than 100,000 Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

The call for retaliatory measures came as the Chinese embassy in Manila detailed Hong Kong's sanctions against Philippine officials.

Under the new measures, which are set to come into force on Wednesday, all Philippine diplomatic passport holders are required to submit their personal bank documents and tax receipts to Hong Kong authorities before entering the city or just transiting through the airport. Those in transit are also required to provide proof of their next destination and itinerary.

The application process could take up to a month, with visa fees ranging from 1,600 pesos (HK$272) to 3,300 pesos, the embassy website said.

Hua Zhang, the deputy chief of the embassy's political section, sent an e-mail to Philippine media defending Hong Kong's actions against Manila.

In the e-mail, Hua said the bus hostage tragedy "affects the feelings of the Chinese, including Hong Kong compatriots. The central government supports the efforts made by the Hong Kong SAR government for proper settlement of the follow-up matters".




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