There is really some kind of disconnect here. And we mean the reactions of some of us Filipinos, specifically critics of the current administration, on the recent prohibition by Hong Kong Immigration authorities of former Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario from entering the Chinese territory.
Most of those who gave their reactions are saying that the government has not done enough to protest the treatment of a former Filipino diplomat. Instead, they claim, the Philippine consular officials in that Chinese territory simply allowed the Hong Kong Immigration to bully Del Rosario by sending him back to the country without even trying to know the reason of the denial of his entry.
These critics are even saying that the rude treatment on the Aquino administration’s Foreign Affairs secretary was not just bullying on his person but bullying the country as well. And they added that allowing such action is a clear manifestation of cowardice of the country’s leaders, alluding more specifically to President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
But how far can we intervene in the implementation of policies of other countries especially in the matter of determining who they want to accept as visitors of their land?
Yes, we have the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of movement including traveling to other parts of the world. But that right to travel is only limited up to areas considered extension of our territories including flag carriers of our nation like airplanes.
Once we get out of the carrier’s confines and step towards the gate of entry to a country we intend to visit for whatever purpose, that right ends. We have to comply with their laws and policies governing acceptance of visitors. If that country’s authorities feel we are security risks it is their right as well to deny us from entering.
In the Philippines all eyes of the country’s Immigration people are trained on Chinese nationals who are believed to have entered the country illegally, robbed us of potential employment opportunities, as well as competed in businesses that should have been for the Filipinos only to engaged in.
And just a few hours before Del Rosario’ fate in Hong Kong the Philippine government Immigration authorities arrested some nine undocumented Chinese whose deportation was immediately ordered. Why did our government act that way? Because it considered the undocumented Chinese as undeserving of our accommodation.
Despite this kind of treatment to its nationality we still have to hear of the Chinese government complaining against our authorities’ action on its people. Then came the Del Rosario incident. The Chinese very well know that the former Foreign Affairs Department chief, together with retired Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, filed a case with the International Court of Justice against no less than Chinese President Xi Jin Ping for allegedly bullying Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea, in the process depriving a good number of our people their livelihood.
Now, is there a need for the administration critics to break their heads searching for reasons why Del Rosario and earlier retired Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, were held at the Hong Kong airport? Can the Chinese Immigration authorities be questioned of their actuation when they very well know that the person coming to their country is one of those who strongly accused their President of violating the rights of the Philippines over an area of the sea that since time immemorial they believe is part of their territory?
Yes, the former DFA boss was among those who questioned China’s claim of almost the whole of the West Philippine Sea to the International Arbitral Tribunal. But China did not participate in the proceedings claiming the area has long been theirs.
As a result the suit brought by the Philippines during the PNoy Aquino administration with Del Rosario as one of the initiators, gave the country a favorable decision. Unfortunately, the Arbitral Court’s judgment is one like a toothless tiger. It has no enforcer to carry it out. In the case of the Philippine win in that tribunal, the decision is simply left for execution by the winning country.
Ironically, these same administration critics are the very people who are prodding the present government to do more drastic actions to make China submit to the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision. Unfortunately for them, the present leadership is adopting a more diplomatic approach through friendly negotiations.
This tact may take some time to produce the desired resolution of the conflicting claims to the area. But what is certain however, is that buildup of tension between the two countries can be avoided.
Meanwhile, some of us Filipinos known as responsible persons should better stop doing irresponsible acts and issuing irresponsible statements in order not to ignite some dormant yet potentially explosive situation in the relations of the two countries involved.
Discretion is, after all, still the better part of valor. Isn’t it better if we heed this admonition of old in settling disagreements?