Diplomatic passports cancelled

Albert Del Rosario

All courtesy diplomatic passports of ex-DFA secretaries, envoys, consuls cancelled.

THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has cancelled all courtesy diplomatic passports.

This came in the wake of former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario’s detention by Hong Kong immigration officers for six hours on June 21 before deporting him.

“The DFA Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) will be issuing an order shortly, cancelling all courtesy diplomatic passports,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Emmanuel Fernandez said.

Del Rosario was using a diplomatic passport during the trip but he said Hong Kong immigration did not explain to him why he had to be detained.

The DFA said on December 20, 2016, Del Rosario was issued a diplomatic passport by the DFA as approved by then Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay, Jr. by virtue of Department Order No. 12-1993. The diplomatic passport is valid until 19 December 2021.

On 18 June 2019, the DFA Office of Consular Affairs (OCA)- Diplomatic and Official Passport Section (DOPS) revalidated former SFA Del Rosario’s diplomatic passport, as provided for by Section 14 of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 and in accordance with existing regulations, for a business trip to Hong Kong.

Since the issuance of the 1993 Department Order, diplomatic passports have been issued to former DFA secretaries as well as ambassadors as a matter of courtesy, the SFA office explained adding it was “not to confer them with diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention, but only to accord them the usual port courtesies at immigration points abroad.”

The government said Saturday Del Rosario may have been denied entry into Hong Kong over his diplomatic passport, shying away from speculation he was barred for being a staunch China critic.

Del Rosario, who served as foreign secretary from 2011 to 2016, tried to enter on a diplomatic passport before being held for more than three hours and put back on a plane.

His lawyer said authorities gave no reason for denying him entry.

But a Philippines’ government spokesperson said there “might have been a problem with the use” of the passport.

“If you use a diplomatic passport it has to be an official engagement between the Philippines government and the country that you’re entering,” Martin Andanar told reporters Saturday on the sidelines of a Southeast Asia leaders summit in Bangkok.

“I’m not really sure what the activity... he was supposed to attend, if it was government or private,” he added.

Andanar would not be drawn on whether Del Rosario was barred from Hong Kong for political reasons, saying only “it’s the right of any country to deny anyone”.

Hong Kong immigration officials refused to comment on the case.

But Del Rosario earlier told reporters that he was in Hong Kong for a business meeting.

Speculation has mounted that Del Rosario was turned away from Hong Kong because of his tough anti-China posturing.

He was behind a 2013 case at an international tribunal that ruled against Beijing’s claim in the South China Sea.

In March he filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court against Chinese leader Xi Jinping, alleging “crimes against humanity” over the supposed environmental fallout of Beijing’s activities in the disputed waters.

With AFP