Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio chided President Rodrigo Duterte over his repeated claims that China is “in control” of the West Philippine Sea, saying the commander-in-chief is conceding more than what Beijing is claiming.
“The West Philippine Sea is very vast. Its total area is probably even bigger than the total land area of the Philippines,” Carpio said in an interview on Teleradyo Saturday.
“When the President says China is in control – China is in control of eight islands or geographical features plus Scarborough Shoal. The total area (of the islands controlled by China) is less than 6 to 7 percent of the total West Philippine Sea. China is in control of a very small portion.”
“You are the President, but you keep on saying ‘China is in control, in possession.’ You have to be specific because you are conceding more than what China is claiming. In fact, China never claimed it was in possession of the WPS but the President conceded immediately,” Carpio added.
Duterte earlier dared Carpio to a debate but backed out when the former magistrate called his challenge, designating presidential spokesman Harry Roque as his proxy instead.
Carpio, however, said it might be pointless to debate with Roque since the latter wanted to focus only on Duterte’s claim that the country lost Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef under the past administration.
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson said it is best for the Palace to keep quiet since the debate will no longer push through.
“If you try doing too much damage control, and it becomes obvious, you just risk more damage. The issue is finished – there is no more debate. A piece of unsolicited advice to Roque or those in Malacanang: It is better to just stay quiet,” he said.
Meanwhile, maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal refuted the President’s claim that the 2016 ruling of the arbitral tribunal that invalidated China’s massive nine-dash-line claim over the entire South China Sea was a mere “piece of paper” that should be thrown in the wastebasket.
“The arbitral tribunal ruling is the basis on which we can say we have rights over these areas. The Philippines should enforce the ruling,” Batongbacal said.
At the House of Representatives, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the West Philippine Sea should be an election issue in next year’s presidential polls.
“The SCS/WPS issue should take a high priority as presidential candidates file their certificates of candidacy in five months’ time. With the way things are shaping up in that maritime domain, it’s quite clear that it’ll be a focus of foreign policy by China and the United States and its allies in the coming years,” said Biazon, senior vice chair of the House Committee on National Defense and Security.
“With China’s long-term plan to dominate the region pitted against the Free and Open Indo-Pacific agenda of the US and its allies, the Philippines must determine how it will navigate the seeming turbulent geopolitical waters in the coming years under a new administration,” he added.