At least 87 percent of Filipinos want the Philippines to regain control of the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea being occupied by China, according to the latest survey by the Social Weather Stations.
The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.
According to the survey, of the 87 percent, 69 percent said regaining control was “very important” while the remaining 18 percent believed it was “somewhat important” that Philippine government must assert claim on the disputed region and islands.
Last month, the Pulse Asia survey showed 73 percent of Filipinos believed the Duterte administration should exercise sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.
This was down from 84 percent in December 2016, two years after a United Nations tribunal ruled in the Philippines’ favor by finding China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea to be excessive.
“A plurality of Filipinos are of opinion that the Philippines should file a diplomatic protest in relation to the continuous militarization of the Chinese in our territories in the West Philippine Sea,” Pulse Asia Phils. President Ronald D. Holmes told a forum.
The survey also showed that the US, Japan, and Australia, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United Nations were trusted by a plurality to a significant majority of Filipinos.
But Filipinos ranked concerns over defense of the country’s territorial integrity against foreigners only 11th out of 15 national concerns.
At the same forum, acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said educating Filipinos that they have sovereign rights in the area was the first step in rallying the international community to establish a rule-based system in the West Philippine Sea.
He added that the next step was to enter a conversation with the rest of the world to comply with the ruling.
China has refused to recognize the authority of the UN tribunal, however, and does not accept its verdict.
The Pulse Asia survey, conducted from June 15 to 25, queried 1,800 participants.
In the Social Weather Stations survey, around 1,200 adult respondents were interviewed, using sampling error margins of ±3 percentage points for national percentages, and ±6 percentage points each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The June survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults aged 18 and above and done nationwide with 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The sampling error margins of ±3 percent for national percentages, and ±6 percent each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The survey revealed that 65 percent were aware that the Chinese Coast Guard people were forcefully taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.
It was also reported that 69 percent believed China was afraid to face any court because it was aware that justice “is not on their side.”
Only eight percent disagreed, while 22 percent expressed indecision on the issue.
However, 43 percent said the government’s non-protest of the actions of China was not considered treachery.
The survey also said that 43 percent considered as “treachery” the Duterte government’s soft attitude to China’s extensive claims to the resource-rich West Philippines Sea.
Only 29 percent were convinced that it was a form of treachery, while 28 percent were ambivalent on the matter.
The President, however, has maintained a “soft-leaning” approach to resolve the maritime row with China.
About 46 percent of the participants strongly agreed and 27 percent somewhat agreed that the administration must assert the ruling that invalidated China’s claim in the West Philippine Sea.
Only 17 percent were in the middle while 4 percent somewhat disagree and 3 percent strongly disagree with enforcing the decision.
Two percent admitted they did not have enough knowledge to give an opinion.
The same survey showed that 34 percent of Filipinos believed the Philippines should file a diplomatic protest against the militarization of the West Philippine Sea.
Some 22 percent believed the Philippines must strengthen its military alliances with the US, Japan, Australia, and other countries and 16 percent want the Philippines to strengthen its own military capabilities.
Only 21 percent wanted to continue the government’s program to befriend China.
Filipinos still have a high amount of trust in the United States (74 percent), Japan (45 percent), and Australia (32 percent) in comparison to China (17 percent), the Pulse Asia survey said.
On the second year of the Hague ruling invalidating China’s claim, the government said it will continue to assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque assured the public that the Duterte administration would not give up the country’s rights in the WPS.
“It is the second anniversary of our win in the arbitration before the Permanent Court of Arbitration and we assure the public that on the second year... anniversary, we will continue to assert what is ours while we move on with our bilateral relations with China,” Roque said at a press briefing.
Roque added that confronting the world’s second largest economy would be “suicide.”