Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. yesterday said under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines cannot impose a ban on marine surveys by foreigners, but the country can refuse to grant authority for such activities.
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‘Pinoys must lead marine surveys by foreigners’
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Foreigners may still conduct marine surveys within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but they have to turn over command and control to Filipino scientists.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. yesterday said under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines cannot impose a ban on marine surveys by foreigners, but the country can refuse to grant authority for such activities.

“We can’t join their ships as just passengers; foreigners turn over command and control, all data gathering facilities, the entire enchilada to Filipinos. OR NO PERMISSION AND/OR BAN STAYS – WHATEVER IT IS SINCE F****** NO KNOWS. BUT THE EFFECT IS NO FOREIGN SURVEY SHIP IN OUR EEZ,” Locsin tweeted.

“Well there you go. Let the foreigners hitch a ride on our marine survey ships,” he said.

In a reply to Locsin, professor Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, tweeted: “Agree that Filipinos should not be mere passengers. Such conditions may be imposed as part of consent procedure.”

A total ban, Batongbacal said, would not be a good idea and counterproductive as the real issue is control and supervision and ensuring that data/information/outcomes are to the Philippines’ benefit.

In a Twitter exchange with Batongbacal, Locsin asked who to give to or withhold from authority to survey or the flag of the boat or nationality of the surveying group leasing it.

Batongbacal said the authority is given to institution/entity that owns/controls the vessel, not flag or nationality.

“Grant is on per-project basis, each time they have to research in Philippine waters. It can be any flag as long as ship’s owners/masters follow our rules and comply with obligations,” he said.

He added that surveys are often carried out by foreign companies under contract, with obligations for turnover of data.

Similar system could be set up for the Philippines to be able to use and control foreign marine research vessels, he said.

Research vessels may or may not be government owned. They may be owned by private entities even if often commissioned or funded by the government, Batongbacal said.

TEODORO LOCSIN JR.
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