Palace backs ban on foreign research ships in Philipines
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang said it would support the policy of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on marine surveys.
“Whatever the department states is the policy of the administration unless the President makes another policy statement,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier called on banning foreign survey ships, including Chinese, inside
Locsin though allowed Filipino marine survey ships to undertake scientific research in the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise.
He gave the go signal during a Twitter exchange with professor Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea. The maritime expert asked Locsin to allow maritime scientific research through the initiative of UP to push through.
“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?” Locsin said on Twitter.
Locsin said the Philippines may not ban marine survey ships under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) but marine surveys should need the country’s permission.
“I am reliably informed that under UNCLOS we cannot ban marine surveys but that marine surveys need our permission to be conducted. This then is the new rule: if we grant permission to one legitimate say US concern we will grant to France, China, Japan, any non-haosiao survey,” Locsin said.
Locsin said he consulted an expert from the International Institute for Strategic Studies and learned that “foreign navies enjoy freedom of navigation through our EEZ (exclusive economic zone).”
“In consultation with a Singaporean IISS expert, I learned that foreign navies enjoy freedom of navigation through our EEZ. Fine then. @JayBatongbacal please double check this. The IISS was pretty sharp though. Let me know,” Locsin said.
Batongbacal replied to Locsin that foreign navies and merchant ships are entitled to freedom of navigation (FON) through all EEZs.
“Yes, foreign navies and merchant ships entitled to FON thru all EEZs; one purpose of UNCLOS is to ensure maritime mobility,” Batongbacal said on Twitter.
Batongbacal agreed that foreign marine surveyors should first ask permission for their activity.
Locsin said on Monday that he banned foreign marine survey ships as granting exception to one country “will automatically lift ban universally” and “exceptions invite bribes.”
Vice President Leni Robredo, on the other hand, called on President Duterte to take a stronger stand to protect the country’s territory and sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea.
“What I don’t understand is why there is no clear lines between giving up sovereignty and maintaining economic relations with them (China). There should be a very clean and clear line as far as protecting our territories and preserving our sovereignty are concerned,” Robredo said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin.
Robredo was also asked whether she agrees with the observations of administration critics that Duterte is “selling out” to China.
“Yes, because the way our administration now is responding to threats to our territories and sovereignty,” the Vice President said.
Robredo said the administration has not taken advantage of the country’s 2016 victory in the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration.
“We won overwhelmingly. We thought it’s a big win. With that decision, we would be able to rally nations behind us… but our government has not responded the way we expected it to,” she said.
Robredo, however, is hopeful Duterte would be able to take up the arbitral ruling with Chinese President Xi Jinping in their meeting in China this month.
“This is a big development in the sense that people have been prodding him to do that. In his previous meetings he (Duterte) said there would be time for that,” Robredo said.
“The President has made a lot of statements which give a sense we are acquiescing to what China wants,” she added. – Helen Flores, Alexis Romero