Nation


Support for gov’t action on Scarborough weaker




Posted on June 18, 2015


SUPPORT for the government’s actions on the Scarborough Shoal standoff has weakened, as the level of worry over the specter of armed conflict with China remains constantly high, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said in a new survey.

A March 20-23, 2015 survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) found that 49% of the respondents said they strongly or somewhat approve of the steps taken by the government, much lower than the 62% and 65% recorded in previous polls on June 2014 and September 2013. Forty-six percent said they strongly or somewhat disapproved the actions of Manila, much higher than the 32% recorded in June 2014 and 27% in September 2013.
A March 20-23 survey found that 49% of the respondents said they strongly or somewhat approve of the steps taken by the government, much lower than the 62% and 65% recorded in previous polls in June 2014 and September 2013.

Meanwhile, 46% said they strongly or somewhat disapproved the actions of Manila, much higher than the 32% recorded in June 2014 and 27% in September 2013.

Public approval of the government’s actions, the SWS said, weakened in all areas of the country, although those who expressed support in the Visayas outnumbered those who didn’t (55% versus 37%).

But the numbers were generally tied for Metro Manila (48%-48%), Balance Luzon (48%-49%), and Mindanao (45%-47%) regions.

At the same time, the same report found that the level of “worry about armed conflict with China in the disputed islands of Scarborough Shoal” -- which took control of the atoll in 2012 -- remained high at 84% in March, with 49% saying that they “worried a great deal” and 35% saying they were “somewhat worried.”

This finding was consistent with that of previous polls in September 2012, September 2013, and June 2014.

The March 2015 survey involved face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults nationwide. The sampling error margins used were 3% for national and 6% for area percentages.

Sought for comment, University of Santo Tomas political science professor Edmund S. Tayao said that the issue on the standoff is rather complicated and technical, hence requiring “more information dissemination.”

“You could probably surmise that the public is getting impatient, frustrated or disappointed... but it doesn’t mean [that it’s] because the public disapproves entirely of what the government does. Most likely, the public doesn’t try to weigh the options,” Mr. Tayao said in a phone interview. “If there’s anything the government can do, it’s to inform the public more.”

Mr. Tayao also said that the public could also possibly be seeing a lack of consistency between Manila’s strongly worded statements against Chinese expansionism and its actions in other fields, like trade and other partnerships “which contribute to China as an economic power.”

Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr., meanwhile, did not respond to requests for comment.

The standoff started April 2012 when the Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar apprehended Chinese fishermen in the area. China has since maintained its presence through its Coast Guard, cutting off local fishermen’s access to the uninhabited shoal, a feature west of Zambales whose highest point measures 5.9 feet above water at high tide.

Scarborough Shoal is but one of the many features in the South China Sea that China enclosed in the so-called “nine-dash line,” a claim to the bulk of the sea criticized for having no basis in maritime law. China has lately been scored for its reclamation works in the Spratly Islands off Palawan.

In response to the dispute, Manila lodged an arbitration case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. -- Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato