More Filipinos are dissatisfied with the Marcos administration but not enough are leaning toward the political opposition, the PAHAYAG 2023 Third Quarter survey results showed.
In a statement, lobbying and campaigns firm PUBLiCUS Asia Inc., which ran the survey, said the poll reveals “a decline in the proportion of Pro-Administration sentiment, while Anti-Administration sentiments have shown an increase.”
While these were “notable changes in the political landscape of the Philippines,” these shifts “do not appear to have an observable impact on the leanings towards the opposition,” it added.
The survey showed that the proportion of respondents who expressed their pro-administration sentiments declined to 43 percent in the third quarter from 48 percent in the second quarter.
Anti-administration sentiments, meanwhile, grew from 18% in the first quarter of 2023 to 23% in the third quarter. This decrease indicates that fewer individuals “are aligned with the current administration as well as its priorities compared to the previous quarter,” the firm added.
Filipino voters, however, remain neutral towards their political leaning toward the opposition (Liberal Party) at 45%, the poll showed.
Pro-opposition support is still “statistically stable” at 20%, slightly higher than the 18% posted last quarter, while anti-opposition support is at 33%, slightly lower than 35% last quarter, PUBLiCUS added.
Malacañang had yet to comment on the survey as of press time, but the decline in support for the present administration could be attributed to its struggle to contain inflation, an economist said Thursday.
“The latest ratings could be largely due to higher prices/inflation, especially rice and oil/petroleum/ fuel but external/exogenous in nature,” Michael Ricafort, chief economist of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., told Manila Standard.
Foreign business groups said the challenges faced by the Philippines are similar to those faced by many governments around the world.
Inflation, for instance, is not unique to the Philippines, said British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (BCCP) executive director and trustee Chris Nelson.
“Inflation has increased. It is being felt not only in the Philippines but across the world — US, UK, Europe. The government tries to increase interest rates, putting some pressure on the economy. And along the way, it can try to increase employment, because that’s what drives a lot of sentiment,” he said.
The only thing business groups can do, Nelson added, is encourage the Philippine government to continue to liberalize the economy “because that is supportive, and at the same time, extend the lower tariffs, particularly on imported meat, because there was a significant spike in pork prices.”
Ricafort said he did not see an improvement in the pro-administration sentiment even after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. thumbed down a proposal from the Department of Finance to cut the import tariffs on rice because that move was “meant to protect farmers’ incomes.”
“The import tariffs are status quo… so not felt by the public,” he said.
The survey also showed a substantial drop in pro-administration support in the National Capital Region to 35 percent from 47 percent, and an increase in anti-administration sentiment from 17 percent to 30 percent in the last quarter.
Southern Luzon also witnessed a drop in pro-administration support, from 41 percent to 36 percent. However, Mindanao remained a stronghold of pro-administration support, with 56 percent of respondents expressing allegiance to the administration.
Ricafort said this could reflect the inherent regional support levels or regionalism.
“This could also be a function on the level of information/media, as well as the level of support of local officials and their constituents,” he said.
The British Chamber, meanwhile, encouraged the government to look at the benefits of trade agreements.
“For me, if you did a similar survey in the UK, I’m sure you would get similar results. These are difficult times, economically, for the government. And in particular, because of inflation, which is a direct consequence or a large part due to the Ukraine-Russian conflict. And of course, it’s now also being felt particularly with energy prices,” Nelson said.
“To be fair with the (Marcos) government, they have to keep on pushing forward and explain, honestly, honestly invest in the right areas, which they said they would do, invest in infrastructure, digital economy,” he added.
The government can keep pushing for its legislative agenda that will support economic expansion, Nelson said, like the amendment to Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 and the extension of lower tariffs on select agricultural products.
Earlier, economic managers shrugged off the results of the PAHAYAG survey, which also showed that economic headwinds hurt the ratings of the administration of President Marcos and his Cabinet.
In a joint statement signed by Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, and Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, the economic team said surveys were primarily based on perceptions, not facts.
“Let it be clear that on GDP (gross domestic product) growth, the Philippines’ real GDP growth of 5.3 percent in the first semester of 2023 proved to be highest among emerging markets in the ASEAN-6, beating Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand,” they said.
The secretaries said it was also worth noting that the Philippines’ economic growth performance appreciated in an environment “where we continue to have elevated global economic and financial uncertainty.”
They assured Filipinos that regardless of any survey, the economic team has been working doubly hard to improve the economy even against various headwinds, and ensure that the government’s package of economic policies remained “sound, responsive, and coherent.”