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Courtesy diplomatic passport often issued to ‘friends’ – Locsin

/ 02:31 PM June 24, 2019
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Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — Courtesy diplomatic passports are often issued to “friends,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Monday.

“Glad this happened. It is a chance to clean up the list. Many issued to ‘friends.’ What kind of legal category is that. What next?” Locsin wrote on Twitter.

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Locsin made the remark in the wake of Hong Kong’s move to block the entry of former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, a holder of a diplomatic passport.

“[Republic Act 8283 or the Philippine Passport Act]…has list of persons who MAY be issued diplomatic passports. It did not include former SFAs (Secretary of Foreign Affairs but [R.A. 8283] said [the] President and [the] SFA issue diplomatic passports to other persons not listed who are ON OFFICIAL MISSION abroad,” he said in a separate tweet.

Locsin said it is through the DFA Department Order 12-93 1993 that provided “the issuance of diplomatic passports by courtesy to former [foreign affairs secretaries] among other [government] officials.”

The DFA on Saturday said it would cancel all courtesy diplomatic passports issued to former top diplomats.

READ: DFA to cancel all diplomatic passports issued to ex-top diplomats 

Some officials questioned Del Rosario’s use of a diplomatic passport, saying he is no longer in public service.

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Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said that under the Philippine Passport Act, issuance of a diplomatic passport does not include former Cabinet secretaries.

Under the law, the diplomatic passport may be used for “official mission or official travel,” he added.

But Del Rosario said the DFA was made aware that he would be using his diplomatic passport for his business trip in Hong Kong.

“The use of a diplomatic passport has its limitations, that being you have to have it revalidated before you take your trip. Every time you travel you have to have it revalidated,” Del Rosario said in an interview with ABS-CBN Channel Monday morning.

“My passport was revalidated,” he said. “I took an additional precaution by informing the Office of the Secretary of the DFA that I was traveling on business to Hong Kong.”

Del Rosario flew to Hong Kong for a business meeting Friday but was blocked by immigration officers from entering. He was held at an airport immigration lounge for about six hours before being told that he was denied entry without any explanation and put on a Cathay Pacific flight back to Manila.

In May, former Supreme Court justice and top anti-graft prosecutor Conchita Carpio-Morales said she was barred from entering Hong Kong for a vacation with her family and held for about four hours before she was ordered to take a flight back to Manila. Hong Kong airport and immigration officials later told her there was a mistake and that she could proceed with her trip to Hong Kong, but she and her family had already decided to return home.

Del Rosario and Carpio-Morales took the bold step of filing a complaint in March before the International Criminal Court against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials over Beijing’s assertive actions in the disputed South China Sea, which they say deprived thousands of Filipino fishermen of their livelihoods and destroyed the environment.

They accused Xi and other Chinese officials of turning seven disputed reefs into man-made islands, causing extensive environmental damage, and of blocking large numbers of fishermen, including about 320,000 Filipinos, from their fishing grounds.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua in Manila called the complaint a “fabrication.” Chinese officials also raised their concern over the complaint in a meeting with Philippine officials in April, saying the case is “affecting the prestige of our leader,” a Philippine official told the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

When del Rosario was foreign secretary, he also spearheaded the filing of an arbitration case to challenge the legal basis of China’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea on historical grounds. The Philippine move was sparked by a standoff between Filipino and Chinese ships in 2013 in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing later effectively seized.

An international arbitration panel invalidated China’s territorial claims in a 2016 ruling and upheld the Philippines’ right to exploit marine resources, including potential undersea oil and gas deposits, in its exclusive economic zone, a stretch of coastal waters. China has ignored and defied the arbitration decision.

The legal offensive against China contrasted with President Rodrigo Duterte’s rapprochement with Beijing since he took office in 2016 while often criticizing the security policies of the United States, a treaty ally.

Del Rosario has said that he and Carpio-Morales filed the complaint against Xi and others “to be able to push back against the bullying and harassment that we have been encountering from our goliath of a neighbor.” With a report from the Associated Press

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TAGS: Albert Del Rosario, China, Conchita Carpio Morales, diplomatic passport, Hong Kong, South China Sea, Teodoro Locsin Jr., Xi Jinping
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