Retract remarks on WPS if you don’t want them mistaken for policy, Carpio tells Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — If President Rodrigo Duterte backed out from his own debate challenge to avoid his statements from being misconstrued as official foreign policy, then he must also retract all his damaging remarks about the West Philippine Sea, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said in a statement issued on Tuesday, May 11.
“Now that the President acknowledges that what he says could bind the government, under the present or future administrations, then he must now retract the following statements that he publicly made recently,” Carpio said.
He specified these three statements:
• That China is “in possession” of the West Philippine Sea
• That Chinese fishermen can fish in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea
• That the ruling favoring the Philippines over China, which was issued on July 12, 2016, by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, is a “scrap of paper to be thrown in the wastebasket”
“If the President does not retract these statements that he made publicly, then he knows that these statements could bind the Philippine government under present and future administrations,” Carpio said.
Duterte made those statements in a pre-recorded address that aired last Wednesday, May 5.
In that same address, he challenged Carpio a debate about those points. The next day Carpio accepted the challenge, but Duterte backed out and instead assigned his spokesman, Harry Roque, to take his place.
Duterte’s withdrawal was widely criticized on social media, with the hashtag #DuterteDuwag trending on Twitter.
On Monday, May 10, during his “Talk to the People,” Duterte said he backed out of the debate not because he afraid of Carpio but because his words might be taken as policy.
In 2019, Carpio already called out Duterte for claiming that the whole West Philippine Sea was already under China’s control. Carpio pointed out that other countries had been conducting military exercises in the area, which meant that China did not have exclusive control of the area.
According to Carpio, China has occupied only seven artificial islands in the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratly Islands), Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, and Sandy Cay.
Prior to Carpio’s rebuff, Duterte declared that he would allow Chinese ships to fish even inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), his government could not drive them away.
In the past few weeks, Duterte and Carpio had been trading barbs due to the President’s reluctance to uphold the PCA decision in the face of reports that Chinese maritime militia ships had been seen near the Julian Felipe Reef, which is inside the EEZ.
But Duterte insisted that raising the decision would do nothing and might only escalate into a military conflict with China, to whom, he said, the Philippines was indebted.
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