Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio shrugged off President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to back out of a debate over the West Philippine Sea issue.
However, Carpio maintained that it was Duterte who issued the challenge and not him.
"Siya ang humamon, tinanggap ko yung hamon para lahat ng tao can understand kung ano ang issue sa West Philippine Sea," said Carpio in an interview on Teleradyo.
Duterte previously challenged Carpio to a debate after accusing Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario of being involved in the withdrawal of Philippine ships from Scarborough Shoal eight years ago.
Both Carpio and Del Rosario were part of the Philippine team that pursued an arbitration case against China over incursions into the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea in 2013, which led to a ruling that invalidated China's 9-dash line claim in 2016, shortly after Duterte became President.
Carpio accepted the challenge, but Duterte backed out after several Cabinet members, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and Sen. Koko Pimentel dissuaded Duterte from debating with Carpio.
Duterte instead delegated the task to his spokesman Harry Roque.
"Maganda sanang okasyon iyon para we will all be educated kaya lang umatras siya. Hindi naman ako ang humamon, siya naman," said Carpio.
"Privilege niya iyon, kung gusto niyang umatras, umatras siya."
(H3) Withdrawal from Scarborough, Mischief Reef a non issue
Meanwhile, Carpio said Duterte's claim on the withdrawal of Philippine ships from Scarborough Shoal is already a non-issue.
He said that it is best that they focus on what has been happening in the West Philippine Sea, where disputed islands were being occupied by Chinese vessels.
"Kasi kung in possession ang China paano ngayon ang mga oil companies na pumirma ng kontrata sa atin na dapat nilang kunin 'yung gas or oil sa Reed Bank 'pag we concede na China is in possession hindi na sila (oil companies) pupunta doon," said Carpio.
The former Supreme Court official said it is imperative for the Philippines to secure the area to ensure a stable oil supply especially now that the oil reserve is Malampaya is running out.
"Iyong Malampaya supplies 40 percent of the energy requirement of Luzon, e mauubos na ang gas sa Malampaya in three years," he said.
"Dapat maumpisahan na natin ang development ng Reed Bank para substitute sa Malampaya otherwise we will have 12-14 hours of daily brownouts pag huminto ang gas supply ng Malampaya."