MANILA — The Philippine Bar Association (PBA) on Thursday offered to host a debate between President Rodrigo Duterte and retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea.
The development came after Carpio earlier in the day accepted the President's challenge to a debate.
In a statement, Rico Domingo, president of the Philippine Bar Association, said the public could benefit "immensely" from the forum, which he described as a "frank and straightforward discussion on a matter that affects the entire citizenry."
"As the oldest voluntary private organization of lawyers in the country, the PBA will provide a balanced arena fit for two lawyers of eminent stature and experience to dispassionately discuss the core issues relating to the dispute on the West Philippine Sea," Domingo explained.
He added that they are just waiting for the time and date the President and Carpio will agree on, noting that the forum will be hosted for free.
The retired magistrate accepted the organization's offer to host the debate.
“I am happy to accept the offer of PBA to host and moderate the debate," said Carpio.
Duterte had blamed the administration of his predecessor, former president Benigno Aquino III, for the loss of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 following a standoff with China.
On Wednesday night, Duterte also likened the country's 2016 victory in The Hague as "just a piece of paper" that belonged to the "wastebasket."
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier in the day said it was a "national tragedy" that the chief executive considers the 2016 arbitral ruling as such.
The United Nations-backed tribunal had ruled in favor of Manila and junked Beijing's claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea — the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the resource-rich waters.
Around 200 ships are still moored in the West Philippine Sea, a geospatial intelligence firm said early Thursday.
The Philippine government has filed several protests regarding the continued incursions of Chinese ships in the country's EEZ.
— With reports from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News