Locsin eyes ‘universal ban’ on foreign marine surveys in PH waters

MANILA, Philippines – After two Chinese survey ships were found to be operating in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without permission, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr announced he was eyeing a "universal ban" on marine surveys in Philippine waters.

Locsin said on Monday, August 12, he wanted to do so to avoid "granting exceptions" to countries, as doing so would "invite bribes."

Prior to the eyed ban, Locsin said rules on conducting marine surveys were amended to include China, aside from Japan and France. (READ: UP marine scientists: 'West Philippine Sea is for Filipinos'

"To pick and choos$e invite$ su$picion of favoriti$m. Will universalize the ban. Period. Granting exception to one country will automatically lift ban universally. Exceptions invite bribe$," Locsin tweeted.

I banned marine survey ships, amending restriction to France & Japan by adding China. To pick & choo$e invite$ su$picion of favoriti$m. Will universalize the ban. Period. Granting exception to one country will automatically lift ban universally. Exceptions invite bribe$. https://t.co/7pLP7s0hQi — Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) August 12, 2019

Locsin's statement came after Manila filed a diplomatic protest against China last August 9 over the presence of Chinese survey ships in the Philippines' EEZ. Map images showed the ships Dong Fang Hong 3 and Zhanjian operating in Philippine waters without prior notice to Philippine authorities.

In response to Locsin's tweet, maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal asked if at the very least Philippine marine research could be allowed to continue.

Batongbacal explained Filipino scientists at the University of the Philippines (UP) organized marine research projects but were banned from doing so as they requested for foreign vessels to be used and invited foreign scientists. (READ: UP marine scientists cite benefits of research with China)

"We end up losing opportunities for tech transfer and experience," Batongbacal said.

Locsin agreed, saying "Only if you are on board the survey ship; you and Senior Justice Carpio's law clerk on secondment." Carpio is a staunch defender of the West Philippine Sea.

Locsin said he wanted to review the academic qualifications of UP scientists who requested to conduct research. "No PoliSigh and the rest of that mushy crap. Hard sciences," he said.

Locsin then decided foreigners could do research as long as research was conducted on Philippine marine survey ships. 

"Philippine marine survey ship and it is a go. Invite foreigners including Chinese. Knowledge has no enemy except ignorance. Brains outside their head look the same, why discriminate?," he said.

Philippine marine survey ship & it is a go. Invite foreigners including Chinese. Knowledge has no enemy except ignorance. Brains outside their head look the same; why discriminate? Brings to mind cupped skull of dissident Italian priest in PH, from which someone ate his brains. https://t.co/FsC4mz2uag — Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) August 12, 2019

Foreign scientists or vessels need permits to conduct marine scientific research in Philippine waters following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclose). Specifically, Article 246 of Unclos states marine scientific research can be conducted in exclusive economic zones if permission is granted by the coastal state, which in this case is the Philippines. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Deo Onda on the value of West PH Sea resources to Filipinos) – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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