By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

FORMER Foreign Affairs secretary Albert F. Del Rosario was held at the Hong Kong International Airport on Friday before his return to Manila also that day.

“We are still in the immigration office, almost four hours na (already),” Mr. del Rosario said in a phone-patch interview on DZMM TeleRadyo on Friday morning.

Mr. del Rosario, who serves as non-executive director at the Hong Kong-based First Pacific, said he was supposed to attend a meeting by the First Pacific board of which he is a member and has informed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of his plan.

Melody M. del Rosario, vice-president for Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, confirmed to BusinessWorld via phone message that the company has a board meeting this week. “Yes, they have,” she said.

Mr. del Rosario also confirmed this during his interview saying: “I have a board meeting for First Pacific and then I have shareholders’ meeting also for First Pacific. All business.”

Both the former Foreign Affairs chief and retired Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales sent a “communication” to the International Criminal Court (ICC) last March asking the organization to conduct a preliminary examination against Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials in connection with the harassment of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

Last month, Hong Kong immigration authorities held Ms. Morales when she and her family went there for a five-day vacation.

Mr. del Rosario, when asked if the ICC communication that he and Ms. Morales have filed could be related to this incident, said: “Yes.”

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo, for his part, said in a CNN interview: “We cannot question the authority, the right of a country to stop or to investigate any guest or visitor wanting to enter that particular country. That’s their exclusive domain.”

“Now, whether or not a person is a security risk to them is for them to determine, not us…. Now, with respect to Albert del Rosario, I cannot also understand the good Ambassador, why he knew from the very start that the Hong Kong authorities have detained former Ombudsman Morales. Of course, we can only speculate that it could have been in relation to the case filed against China. But having said that, because if I were del Rosario, I would have not gone to Hong Kong,” he added.

In a phone message, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, who has been designated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as officer-in-charge while he is in Bangkok for a summit, said: “As OIC, I will request the DFA to find out the reason for former SFA’s exclusion and extend whatever assistance could be given to him as a former foreign minister of our country.”

“But personally, I believe that the lesson derived from former Ombudsman Morales’s similar experience should have been clear to him,” he added.

Senator Richard J. Gordon, in his statement, said the Hong Kong authorities acted with “disrespect” in the manner they treated Mr. del Rosario.

“Hong Kong authorities acted with disrespect and exhibited lack of good judgment. The maintenance of good and friendly relations, bilateral or multilateral, state to state, people to people, is a main objective of every government,” he said.

First Pacific has presence in the Philippines through key units PLDT, Metro Pacific Investments Corp., and Philex Mining Corp.

Hastings Holdings, Inc. — a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. — maintains interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.