By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
MAJORITY OF Filipinos reject the government’s “inaction” regarding China’s militarization activities in the West Philippine Sea, results from the latest survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.
The noncommissioned Third Quarter 2018 SWS survey, conducted from Sept. 15 to 23, asked 1,500 Filipinos if three activities related to the issue is right or not right. Its results were published on the first day of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit in Manila.
The survey indicated that about 84% of Filipinos said it is not right to “leave China alone with its infrastructures and military presence in the claimed territories.” The figure was up by three points from the 81% reported in June.
Meanwhile, 86% of Filipinos believed it is right to “strengthen the military capability of the Philippines, especially the Navy.” The figure was up by six points from the 80% in June.
And lastly, 71% of Filipinos said it is right for the government “to bring the issue to international organizations, like the United Nations or Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for a diplomatic and peaceful negotiation with China about the claimed territories.” The figure was three points below the 74% in June.
Majority of Filipinos (87%) also believed that it is important for the Philippines to regain control of the China-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea.
The survey showed higher trust among Filipinos towards the United States, compared to China. US had a net trust rating of +59 (labeled as “very good”), followed by Japan with +28, Malaysia with +15, and Israel +13 (all “moderate”), and China with -16 (“poor”).
SWS also noted that net trust in the United States has remained positive since they first surveyed it in December 1994. But the latest figure was six points below the reported +65 rating in June.
Meanwhile, net trust in China has been positive in nine out of 47 surveys since SWS started the survey in August 1994. However, its latest -16 rating was 19 points above the reported -35 rating in June.
As for other countries, Filipinos’ sentiments towards Japan was declining after its record-high rating of +54 last December 2017. Malaysia stayed at neutral to moderate levels throughout the past surveys. Israel also remained in the poor to moderate levels.
The survey also noted higher distrust in China among the respondents who were aware of issues in the West Philippine Sea.
On Filipinos’ awareness in the issue of the West Philippine Sea, the survey found that 65% are aware of the Chinese coast guard confiscating Filipino fishermen’s goods in the West Philippine Sea.
The September survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews with 1,500 adults nationwide: 600 in Balance Luzon and 300 each in Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao, with sampling error margins ±3% for national percentages, ±4% for Balance Luzon and ±6% each for the remaining regions.
In a statement, Malacañang questioned the timing of the survey, adding it could be “wittingly or unwittingly used for partisan purposes.”
Presidential spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo also criticized the “flawed questionnaire design regarding China and the West Philippine Sea.”
“We consider the question skewed as it misleads the public to believe and suggests that the current government has not acted on China’s activities on the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea. This is far from truth,” Mr. Panelo said, adding that the Duterte administration has been “consistent in its stance” on the issue.
“We, therefore, view the results with skepticism as the reliability of the data in question,” he added.
As for the public’s perception on China, US, and Japan, Mr. Panelo said it was expected for the US and Japan to have higher trust ratings since they were the country’s traditional allies.
“Our country’s renewed ties with our giant neighbor in the North provides us a welcome opportunity for the public to know and understand China better. It does not happen overnight but we are confident that a more favorable public appreciation of China could happen in the future,” he said.