PH to have new marine survey boats, Locsin says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 17) — The government has budget for new marine survey boats, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. said Saturday.

"[Former Senator Loren Legarda] gave budget for new marine survey boats. UP (University of the Philippines) won't need to bunk with smelly aliens," Locsin said in a tweet. Legarda, was chair of the Senate Committee on Finance which led deliberations for the 2019 budget.

Locsin's remark was in response to a comment made by Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, who welcomed Locsin's policy to allow foreign experts to join marine surveys as long as the research would be led by Filipinos.

READ: Surveys in Philippine EEZ should be led by Filipinos, Locsin says

"Excellent! That will pave way for a number of pending research proposals," Batongbacal said, adding that he hopes the government can also allow the use of foreign vessels in the future.

Locsin explained that he only allowed foreign nationals to "hitch a ride on our marine survey ships" after getting clearance from security officials. He stressed that "only Filipino boats" should be used.

Locsin's latest remarks make it clear he wants foreign survey ships out of the Philippine waters, including the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), where it has sovereign rights to explore and use natural resources. He earlier announced he would "universalize" the ban on these foreign vessels from Philippine EEZ, but later acknowledged that based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which the country signed, the government could not completely prohibit all foreign countries from conducting marine research.

He then said among the conditions for foreign marine surveys to be allowed is if they would be led by Filipino experts.

"We can't join their ships as just passengers; foreigners turn over command and control, all data gathering facilities, the entire enchilada to Filipinos," he said in a tweet on Wednesday.

This new policy comes following a string of incidents where Chinese vessels, including warships, passed through Philippine waters without prior permission from local authorities.

Earlier this month, the Philippines protested the presence of two Chinese survey ships. Between August 5 and 6, one of the research vessels came as close as 75 nautical miles from Siargao island, well within the country's 200-nautical mile EEZ.

Chinese warships were also spotted in the country's waters, prompting the government to file diplomatic protests with Beijing. The latest were found in Sibutu Strait, an internationally recognized shipping lane south of Tawi-Tawi -– two Chinese warships in July and another three in August. The Palace said this could be the subject of another protest.