The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday said it will cancel “courtesy” diplomatic passports issued to former foreign secretaries and ambassadors, among them former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario who on Friday was denied entry to Hong Kong for being a “security risk”.
“The DFA Office of Consular Affairs will be issuing an order shortly, canceling all courtesy diplomatic passports, and requiring their surrender for physical cancellation,” the DFA said in a statement.
“The practice of issuing courtesy diplomatic passports to former DFA secretaries and ambassadors shall henceforth be discontinued,” it added.
The DFA gave no explanation for the move. Del Rosario was scheduled to attend a business meetingFriday in Hong Kong. He was travelling on a diplomatic passport.
The DFA said Del Rosario’s passport was revalidated on June 18, ahead of his business trip to the Chinese special administrative region. Del Rosario and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, along with a group of Filipino fishermen, filed with the International Criminal Court in The Hague last March 15 a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials for what they alleged as crimes against humanity in the West Philippine Sea.
DFA said the government started issuing courtesy diplomatic passports in 1993, but added these would only accord them “usual port courtesies” at immigration points abroad, and not diplomatic immunity.
On his detention at the airport in Hong Kong and the denial of his entry, Del Rosario’s camp said Hong Kong could have possibly violated its treaty obligations under the Vienna Convention, which shields diplomatic agents and their families from criminal, civil and administrative prosecution.
Del Rosario said the DFA assured him that his ordeal will be “expeditiously handled,” and that it would suggest filing a protest over Hong Kong’s failure to respect his diplomatic passport.
It was Del Rosario’s first trip to Hong Kong since he and Morales filed the complaint against Xi in the ICC. Morales also suffered the same ordeal in Hong Kong last month. She was detained at the Hong Kong airport but was later given a clearance to enter, but she opted to fly back to Manila instead. Del Rosario, on the other hand, never got a permission from the Hong Kong immigration officers.
Speaking to CNN Philippines Saturday evening, Del Rosario doubted if the DFA would push through with the move to cancel courtesy diplomatic passports. He said the issuance of these courtesy diplomatic passports is “a tradition in the DFA”.