Three of five Filipinos distrust China, SWS says

Posted on July 10, 2015

THREE out of five Filipinos have expressed distrust in China, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, with the sentiment stemming from the South China Sea territorial dispute between Manila and Beijing.

Results of a June 5 to 8 survey among 1,200 adults nationwide -- with sampling error margins of 3 points for national percentages and 6 points each for Metro Manila, “Balance Luzon,” Visayas, and Mindanao -- found 62% (from 56% in June 2014) of respondents have “little trust” in China, 17% (from 20%) have “much trust,” while 19% (from 20%) were undecided.

The resulting net trust score of “bad” -45 is nine points down from the -36 recorded in June last year.

The SWS terminology classifies net satisfaction scores of +70 and above as “excellent;” +50 to +69 as “very good”; +30 to +49 as “good”; +10 to +29 as “moderate”, +9 to -9 as “neutral”; -10 to -29 as “poor”; -30 to -49 as “bad”; -50 to -69 as “very bad”; and -70 and below as “execrable.”

The SWS considers any movement from one classification to another as either an “upgrade” or a “downgrade”.

Sought for comment, Lingxiao Li, spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Manila, said: “Chinese and Filipinos are not only neighbors, but also friends, partners and relatives. The Chinese side will continue to promote people-to-people exchanges and friendship.”

“We are optimistic about the future of the millennium-long traditional friendship between our two peoples,” she added in the text message sent to BusinessWorld on Thursday.

On the other hand, public trust with the United States and Australia -- two countries which have opposed reclamation activities in the South China Sea, together with the Philippines -- continued to earn positive net trust ratings among Filipinos.

In the June survey, the United States scored a net trust rating of “very good” +64. The last SWS survey in 2013 yielded an “excellent’ +82 in December 2013 in the western country’s trust rating, while it was a “moderate” +18 in May 2005.

Australia “had been scoring positive net trust ratings since 1995” despite declines reported during the past surveys. Australia scored net trust rating of “good” +36, compared to the “very good” +55 in August 2012 and the “neutral” +3 in September 1995.

Saudi Arabia and Malaysia were also included in the June survey, with the former scoring a “neutral” -9 and the latter scoring a “poor” -10.

“Net trust in Saudi Arabia used to be a poor -19 in August 1994 before it rose to neutral -5 in March 2008,” the SWS said in its published report on Thursday.

“Net trust in Malaysia started out at neutral -2 in August 1994 before declining to poor and bad levels from December 1994 to March 20018, ranging from -37 to -16. It rose to neutral -2 in June 2008,” the SWS said further.

News regarding the territorial spat between the Philippines also ranked fifth among the 14 news items surveyed by the SWS, with more than half of those who followed it said they paid close attention to the matter.

“Of the 14 news events tested, the events regarding the conflict between the Philippines and China about who owns the islands in the West Philippine Sea was the fifth most followed news, with 51% who followed it very closely [or] somewhat closely,” the SWS said.

Four of the most followed news events were the boxing fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (78%), the case of OFW Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia (57%), the court trial concerning the pork barrel scam of Janet Lim-Napoles (57%), and events connected to the implementation of the K to 12 program (52%).

Following the top five news events were: the court trial concerning the Maguindanao massacre of November (50%), the Senate investigation regarding the alleged anomaly in the construction of a building in Makati City when Vice-President Jejomar C. Binay was still mayor of Makati (48%), the court trial concerning the case of former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (46%), and the earthquake that ravaged Nepal (44%).

In a related report, the Philippines underscored the strength of its environmental and fishing claims against China on the second day of the jurisdiction and admissibility hearing before the international arbitral tribunal at The Hague, Malacañang on Thursday said.

“Professor Alan Boyle presented to the tribunal arguments regarding the strength of the Philippines’ environmental and fishing claims against China,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail F. Valte, who is part of the Philippine delegation at The Hague, said in a statement.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Charles C. Jose refused to elaborate on the court presentation, saying case proceedings are “confidential,” he said in a text message.

Lawyers for the Philippines further explained that the case “does not constitute specific exemptions under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which would preclude the tribunal from exercising jurisdiction over the case.”

The Philippines instituted arbitral proceedings against the People’s Republic of China under Annex VII of the UNCLOS on Jan. 22, 2013 “with respect to the dispute with China over the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario argued at the first day of the hearing that Beijing is prohibited from exercising its “historic rights” over waters of the South China Sea beyond its entitlement limits under UNCLOS.

The Philippines is represented at the Permanent Court of Arbitration by Acting Solicitor General Florin T. Hilbay as Agent, and Paul S. Reichler and Lawrence H. Martin of Foley Hoag LLP, Professor Bernard H. Oxman of University of Miami School of Law, Professor Philippe Sands QC of Matrix Chambers, and Professor Alan Boyle of Essex Court Chambers as Counsels.

Messrs. Martin, Oxman and Reichler took turns presenting arguments involving various points on why the claims of the Philippines “fall squarely within the jurisdiction of the tribunal,” Ms. Valte said. -- Alden M. Monzon and Kathryn Mae P. Tubadeza