A proposed debate between President Duterte and former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue is not necessary.
The Philippine Bar Association offered to host and moderate the debate to provide a “balanced arena” for the two lawyers.
‘’I doubt if the country will benefit from such a debate,’’ Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a cryptic reply to a query by a Senate reporter.
But Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, is more expressive.
“A formal public debate is not necessary,’’ Pimentel said.
‘’Because 1. It will not settle anything 2. It will only give to the entire world the impression that we are divided on the issue (when in reality we may not be),’’ he explained.
‘’Also, the Filipino people who are the potential and supposed to be the primary audience to the debate may be interested in some other things more important to them like food on the table, a reliable and decent source of income or livelihood, day to day peace and order, etc.,’’ he added.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee, said that ‘’a public debate is always healthy in a democratic environment as long as it is limited to the issue at hand and does not go down to gutter level.’’
‘’On one hand, a question comes to mind – what do we gain from the debate assuming that it pushes through? One other dire outcome is further divisiveness that only China will benefit from,’’ he pointed out.
‘’I could almost imagine the anticipated excitement on the part of the Chinese while watching all these developments as they continue to be busy surveying more shoals within our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) that they can build more garrisons to pursue their expansionist agenda in the West Philippines Sea,’’ Lacson added.
To opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, ‘’China’s attitude towards the Philippines and other South China Sea claimant countries is an infraction of sovereign agreements, to which she is a signatory. If China cannot follow international law, including the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), the global community must continuously band together to pressure China to comply.’’
‘’Excessive Chinese claims should be challenged, lest they become the norm. We should also send more ships to the WPS to show China how worthless, illegitimate, and unlawful her claims are. This is not the time to kowtow to the autocratic and hypocritical regime in Beijing. If we don’t assert our rights under international law, we lose them,’’ she stressed.
‘’Let’s not stop until China is put in her place. Bullies never win,’’ she added.