FOREIGN AFFAIRS Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. is considering opening up marine surveys of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs) to more foreign participation, subject to the condition that they use Philippine ships or cede leadership of the survey mission to Filipinos.

Mr. Locsin was responding to a proposal put forward by the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea Director Jay L. Batongbacal, who noted that foreign scientist joined the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in an expedition to the Benham Rise in May 2016.

“Well there you go. Let the foreigners hitch a ride on our marine survey ships,” he said in a social media post on Wednesday.

Mr. Locsin had earlier threatened to ban Chinese survey ships win the Philippines’ EEZ, which he later learned was prohibited under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He noted, however, that while the Philippine government cannot impose a ban, it can refuse to grant authority to conduct marine surveys.

Mr. Locsin is also considering the possibility of allowing foreign-owned survey ships to enter Philippine waters, as long as that Filipinos are in charge.

“We can’t join their ships as just passengers; foreigners (need to) turn over command and control, all data gathering facilities, the entire enchilada to Filipinos,” he said in a separate post.

Mr. Batongbacal said in a social media post that Mr. Locsin’s openness to foreign participation will help researchers move forward a number of pending research proposals.

“I hope we can in future also work out system for proposals for PH use of foreign vessels (eg, collaborative project w/ Japan or Korea for deep-sea geological research in Benham Rise Region),” Mr. Batongbacal said Wednesday.

He also said the plan to sign cooperation agreements in exploring the Philippine EEZ is viable and has been practiced in previous joint research projects. “If we don’t have the appropriate ship and gov(ernment)-provided budget, we could do that. Without enough money, we have had to enter into cooperation agreements so that our scientists can use their ships, or we joined (international) research projects that also cover our areas of research.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan