Majority of Filipinos want the Philippines to regain control of the disputed West Philippine Sea, including the islands occupied by China, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.
The poll, conducted from June 27 to 30 among 1,200 adults nationwide, showed that 87 percent of the respondents believe that it was “important” for the Philippines to assert its territorial rights over the contested waters.
Of the 87 percent, 69 percent said it was “very important” while the remaining 18 percent believe it was “somewhat important” that the Philippines regains control of the disputed islands.
Only 1 percent said it was “somewhat not important” and the other 1 percent thought it was “not at all important.”
The same survey also showed that 65 percent were aware of reports that some personnel of China’s Coast Guard had been taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
Meanwhile, 69 percent said China is afraid to face any court because it is aware that justice is “not on (its) side.” Only 8 percent disagreed, while 22 percent expressed indecision on the issue.
This comes amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s refusal to invoke the Philippines’ victory against China over the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
China had rejected the landmark decision of a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line policy, under which it claimed almost all areas of the South China Sea.
Duterte had put the decision on the back burner as he sought warmer ties with China.
The President, however, has maintained a “soft-leaning” approach to resolve the maritime row with China.
About 93 percent of those who are aware about the West Philippines Sea conflict emphasized the importance of regaining control of China-occupied islands, the SWS said.
Duterte yielded a net satisfaction score of “good” +44 among those who stressed that it was “not right” for him to leave China alone with its intensified military build-up in its claimed territories in the disputed waters.
Meanwhile, 43 percent said the Duterte administration’s refusal to protest Beijing’s actions is not a form of treachery.
Only 29 percent were convinced that it was a form of treachery, while 28 percent were ambivalent on the matter.
On July 12, Malacañang assured the Filipino people that the Philippines will continue to defend its historic victory in the arbitral case it lodged against China.
The survey has sampling error margins of ±3 percent for national percentages, and ±6 percent each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The area estimates were weighted by Philippine Statistics Authority medium-population projections for 2018 to obtain the national estimates.
The SWS survey items on people’s opinion about the West Philippine Sea conflict were non-commissioned.
A separate SWS survey also showed that a vast of majority of Filipinos, or 81 percent of respondents, rejected the Duterte administration’s policy of “doing nothing” about China’s intrusions in the West Philippine Sea.
The poll, released on the second anniversary of the 2016 Hague ruling, also found that 80 percent of Filipino adults believe it is right for the government to strengthen the country’s military capability.
Approximately 74 percent of those polled want the territorial dispute raised to international organizations like the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
On the other hand, 73 percent were for direct, bilateral negotiations between the Philippines and China, while 64 percent expressed the need for a third-party nation to facilitate negotiations between the Philippines and China.
The June 2018 survey showed more people distrusting China, as the Eastern nation’s trust rating fell to -35 points, or a “bad” rating. / BY CATHERINE S. VALENTE, TMT ON