Malacañang on Thursday expressed optimism that Filipinos will soon appreciate China, after its trust rating worsened from “poor” to “bad.”
The Palace, however, said it was not surprised with the results of the poll by the Social Weather Stations which indicate that China remains to be the least trusted country among Filipinos, with a net trust rating of -33 points.
“China, like any other country, will be eventually appreciated by the Filipinos by reason of the President’s independent foreign policy which has resulted in significant benefits favorable to the Philippines,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
He said that China, the world’s biggest exporter, could even become a “role model” of the country “in reducing, if not totally eradicating, poverty.”
From -24 points last June, China’s net trust rating decreased by nine percentage points in September, according to the SWS.
President Duterte has sought closer investment and trade ties with Beijing, including over resources in the disputed sea, since he became president in 2016.
But China‘s aggressiveness in the South China Sea sparked anti-China sentiments among Filipinos.
“Despite the territorial dispute not being the sum total of our relationship with China, the Office of the President will neither court nor force any citizen to change his or her sentiments toward our giant neighbor in the North,” Panelo said.
“We will respect their conviction the way we valu0e their allegiance to the Republic and its elements,” he added.
In August, the military reported several unannounced passage of Chinese warships and survey ships within the country’s exclusive economic zone, including in the Philippine-occupied Ayungin Shoal in the Spratlys and in Sibutu Islands near Tawi-Tawi.
This prompted President Duterte to order all foreign vessels to get clearance from the government first before sailing through the country’s waters.
On June 9, a Chinese trawler also rammed and damaged a Filipino fishing vessel that was anchored at Recto Bank.
Since it was first surveyed by the SWS in August 1994, China’s net trust rating has been positive in only 9 out of 51 polls.