Senators doubt Duterte-Carpio debate would benefit PH, ‘settle anything’
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Friday expressed doubts that a debate between President Rodrigo Duterte and retired Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on issues concerning the West Philippine Sea would benefit Filipinos, with one saying it could further divide the nation on the issue.
“I doubt if the country will benefit from such a debate,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a message to reporters when asked on the matter.
Duterte recently challenged Carpio to debate on the West Philippine Sea, particularly on the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that favored the Philippines over China.
Carpio accepted the challenge from the Chief Executive.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, for his part, said the debate could push “further divisiveness” and benefit and excite China, which has expansive claims in the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.
“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 exclusive economic zone that they can build more garrisons to pursue their expansionist agenda in the West Philippines Sea,” Lacson, chairperson of the Senate defense panel, said in a statement.
“That said, the hype surrounding the debate should not distract us into allowing the Chinese to sneak into our territory while we argue among ourselves. That would be the last thing we need for our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.
For Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, chairperson of the Senate foreign relations committee, a formal public debate is no longer necessary.
“It will not settle anything,” Pimentel added.
Further, he said a debate between Duterte and Carpio would only give off an impression of a divided nation.
“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 said.
“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.,” Pimentel added.
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