MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said foreigners joining Filipino marine scientific research must “turn over command and control, all data gathering facilities” to Philippine citizens in their expedition.
In a tweet, Locsin said Filipinos cannot be mere passengers in marine research within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“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*****g no knows. But the effect is no foreign survey ship in our EEZ,” Locsin said.
The DFA chief on Tuesday said the Philippines may not ban marine surveys under an international sea treaty but that they need the country’s permission.
This was a turnaround from his earlier statement that he was banning marine survey ships even of China, saying granting an exception to one country “will automatically lift ban universally” and will “invite bribes.”
The presence of Chinese ships in the country's EEZ has been controversial amid unresolved disputes in the South China Sea. China has been asserting ownership over nearly all of the resource-rich waters.
“Well now it is clear: we can't impose a ban but we can refuse to grant authority to marine survey. But my rule is all or nothing; everybody or nobody qualified,” he said in an exchange of tweets with Filipino maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal.
Locsin once again expressed openness to invite foreigners to join Philippine-organized and funded marine scientific research after Batongbacal gave an example of one Filipino-led study that invited foreign scientists, including technical divers and operators of an ROV (remotely operated video).
“Well there you go. Let the foreigners hitch a ride on our marine survey ships,” Locsin said.
Batongbacal replied: “Excellent! That will pave way for a number of pending research proposals. I hope we can in future also work out system for proposals for PH use of foreign vessels (eg, collaborative project w/ Japan or Korea for deep-sea geological research in Benham Rise Region). Thank you sir.”
Locsin had earlier asked Batongbacal: “Why can't we lease a marine survey ship say from the Japanese who make the best of everything. And then invite foreigners to join our survey. Good idea?”
Batongbacal said this could be done and that the Philippines may “enter into cooperation agreements” if Filipinos don’t have the right ship and budget.
“Yes, if we don't have the appropriate ship and government-provided budget, we could do that. Without enough money, we have had to enter into cooperation agreements so that our scientists can use their ships, or we joined international research projects that also cover our areas of research,” Batongbacal said.