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Filipinos should lead marine survey in Philippine waters: diplomat

Above is a photo of research vessel Kasarinlan, which scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute used in a research expedition in the West Philippine Sea in April. The STAR/Evelyn Macairan. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

MANILA, Aug 14, 2019, PhilStar. Foreign ships may conduct marine survey in Philippine exclusive economic zone provided that they turn over control to Filipino scientists, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said, reported the Philippine Star.

The Philippines’ top diplomat earlier noted that the country cannot ban foreign marine surveys under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea but the foreigners still need permission from the government.

In a Twitter conversation with professor Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, asked if the Philippines could lease marine survey ship and then invite foreigners to join surveys of Filipino scientists.

Batongbacal confirmed that the Philippines can lease foreign marine survey ship if the country does not have the appropriate vessel and if the government does not have budget.

“Without enough money, we have had to enter into cooperation agreements so that our scientists can use their ships, or we joined int’l research projects that also cover our areas of research,” Batongbacal replied to Locsin.

Locsin, however, stressed that Filipino scientists cannot join foreign ships as merely passengers.

“We can’t join their ships as just passengers; foreigners turn over command and control, all data gathering facilitis, the entire enchilada to Filipinos,” Locsin said.

Otherwise, no permission will be granted to foreign research vessels or the ban stays, the DFA chief added.

In a separate thread, Locsin confirmed that foreigners may “hitch a ride” on Philippine marine survey ships as done in the past.

In May 2016, scientists from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the University of the Philippines conducted an expedition to Benham or Philippine Rise and invited foreign scientists.

Locsin’s pronouncements came after two Chinese survey ships were located operating in Philippine waters.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had questioned the presence of Chinese survey ships in Philippine waters and advised the government to ask the Chinese Embassy to explain what the ships are doing in the country’s EEZ.

In response to Lorenzana’s remarks, Locsin said the DFA will fire off a diplomatic protest over the presence of Chinese research vessels in Philippine waters.

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