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DFA hopeful Hong Kong will lift ‘black travel advisory’

DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—After nearly two years of talks with Hong Kong officials, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday it hopes that the black travel advisory issued by China’s Special Administrative Region against the Philippines would soon be eased if not totally lifted.

Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesman, told the Inquirer on Tuesday that “discussions with the Hong Kong government on this issue are nearing completion.”

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Hernandez did not disclose details of the talks, but said the DFA, along with the Department of Tourism, has been making representations with Hong Kong authorities.

Earlier, he said the DFA and DOT had not given up hope, stressing they would “continue with our representations and hope that a positive outcome will result from them.”

Hong Kong has turned down the Philippine government’s repeated appeals for the lifting of negative travel advisory. Despite this, however, a total of 112,106 Hong Kong tourists visited the country last year.

On Aug. 23, 2010, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau raised to black its outbound travel alert, or OTA, for the Philippines after eight Hong Kong tourists were killed and seven others wounded in a Manila bus hijacking and hostage situation at the Rizal Park perpetrated by a dismissed Filipino police officer.

For more than 10 hours, Rolando Mendoza held hostage a bus full of Chinese tourists in a desperate bid to get back the job he had lost over corruption charges. He was later killed in a police assault on the tourist bus at Rizal Park after he started shooting his hostages.

Hong Kong residents and officials voiced disappointment over the Aquino administration’s failure to take stronger punitive measures against those in charge of the botched rescue, including Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

Families of the victims who came to Manila last year to mark the first anniversary of the incident criticized President Aquino for his refusal to meet with them or issue an apology.

In its outband travel alert, the Hong Kong government declared a “severe threat” in the Philippines, which meant that all travel to the country should be avoided.

Aside from the Philippines, the former British colony has issued a black travel alert for Syria, where a pro-democracy uprising has left thousands of people dead.

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Hong Kong has also urged its nationals to “avoid non-essential travel” to Egypt, Lebanon and Japan, specifically Fukushima prefecture.

The agency also advised Hong Kong citizens to “exercise caution” when flying to the following destinations: Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Maldives, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, and Tunisia.

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TAGS: black travel advisory, Department of Foreign Affairs, DFA, Hong Kong, Luneta hostage crisis, Raul Hernandez, Rizal Park bus hostage, Rolando Mendoza, Tourism, Travel advisory
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