On May 5, President Rodrigo Duterte once again blasted retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio during his late night speech, challenging him to debate on the West Philippine Sea issue. The following day, Carpio accepted this challenge, saying he would gladly debate with the president at his most convenient time, as per Rappler.com.
On May 7, however, President Duterte backed out from the proposed debate, tapping his spokesperson, Harry Roque, to spar with Carpio on his behalf. Fast forward to May 10, and Roque has even chosen the topic for the debate, according to GMA News Online.
“Mga kritiko ng Presidente, mag-debate [tayo]. Ang proposition: sa independent foreign policy ng Presidente, meron bang derogation ng soberaniya? Meron bang nawalang teritoryo? Kahit kailan, haharapin ko kayo (To the President’s critics, let us debate. Was there ever a derogation of sovereignty or lost territory that happened due to the independent foreign policy of the President? I will be ready to face you anytime),” Roque said.
To put things into perspective, this debate came up due to the controversial Scarborough issue. President Duterte criticized the retired magistrate as to why he didn’t advise former president Noynoy Aquino to do something about the matter. Scarborough shoal is a traditional fishing area, meaning it is open for non-commercial fishing whether Filipino or Chinese.
After pulling out of the area in 2012, the Philippines filed a legal complaint against China before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration over its repeated aggression within the Philippines exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
In a July 2016 ruling, the court rejected China’s sovereignty claim in the entire South China Sea. The same decision also ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank are within the exclusive economic zone of the country.