Locsin backtracks on ban vs foreign marine surveys

Sofia Tomacruz

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Locsin backtracks on ban vs foreign marine surveys
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr now says he was 'reliably informed' that under international law, countries cannot ban marine surveys

MANILA, Philippines – After saying he would impose a “universal ban” on foreign marine surveys in Philippine waters, Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr changed his tune on Tuesday, August 13, saying he would open it to all countries following international law.

Locsin said he was “reliably informed” that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries cannot ban marine surveys. Instead, foreign states must seek the permission of a coastal state to conduct marine scientific research inside that state’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“This is then the new rule: if we grant permission to one legitimate say, US concern, we will grant to France, China, Japan, any non-haosiao (fake) survey,” Locsin tweeted.



Locsin said he does not want to “show preference for or bias against any country” and that Philippine policy should apply to “all or none.”

“All or nothing, everybody or nobody competent to do it. Period,” he said.



Just a day before, on Monday, August 12, Locsin announced he would impose a “universal ban” on foreign marine surveys in Philippine waters, as granting exception to certain countries would “invite bribes.”

This came after two Chinese survey ships were found to be operating in the Philippines’ EEZ without permission from the Philippine government. (LOOK: Chinese survey ship found operating in PH waters)

Under UNCLOS, coastal states – who have sovereign rights over their EEZs – must give their consent to foreign countries who want to conduct marine scientific research.

Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal also said UNCLOS allows for coastal states to impose conditions for granting consent, like sharing of information and participation of local scientists.

“Consent may be withheld if the MSR (marine scientific research) infringes on coastal states’ EEZ or continental shelf rights…. Non-compliance with conditions for consent may be grounds for [the] coastal state to require suspension or cessation [of research],” Batongbacal said.

Batongbacal, however, reminded that granting or withholding consent with reason must be provided within 4 months after a foreign state submits its application. Otherwise, permission would be “deemed impliedly granted” based on UNCLOS.

“I love that ‘impliedly granted.’ It kills the usual government shakedowns,” Locsin tweeted.

The Philippines earlier 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.

Under the Duterte administration, the Philippines and China have seen a turnaround in ties as President Rodrigo Duterte has downplayed the long-standing sea dispute in exchange for loans and grants from Beijing. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.