Did the previous administration’s decision to forge increasingly stronger ties with China from 2016 onwards result in a corresponding increase in trust and confidence among Filipinos towards our next-door neighbor?
That is, if we’re to set great store by survey results showing that Filipinos trust countries such as the United States, Australia, and Japan the most, and China and Russia the least.
In other words, even if the previous administration kept Washington at arm’s length because the latter criticized its brutal war on drugs in no uncertain terms, while at the same time praising Beijing for showing support for our economic development initiatives and donating vaccines to help us overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipinos nonetheless take a positive view of the United States and its close allies and still distrust Beijing.
The Pulse Asia survey results released late last month showed that 31 percent of respondents indicated a “great deal of trust” in the US, while 58 percent gave it a “fair amount of trust.” This gave the US a total trust rating of 89 percent.
On the other hand, the survey also showed that some 36 percent of Filipinos said the Philippines should extend “not too much trust” in China, and another 31 percent who said that there should be “no trust at all.”
This means China had a distrust rating of 67 percent, the survey showed.
Russia, meanwhile, had a distrust rating of 62 percent. After its invasion of Ukraine, its trust rating would certainly have plunged among Filipinos.
The 2022 Pulse Asia survey validates the results of a similar survey it conducted in 2019.
That survey showed that six of 10 Filipinos or 60 percent are distrustful of China, while eight of 10, or 80 percent, trust the United States.
The percentage of the respondents who trusted the United States rose to 84 percent, from 79 percent in March 2017. Fifty-four percent of the respondents also distrusted Russia, down from 56 percent in March 2017.
China’s low trust rating among Filipinos appears to be the inevitable result of the territorial and maritime dispute in the South China Sea, and recent news reports of bullying by Chinese Coast Guard vessels turning away Filipino fishermen from parts of our 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
On the other hand, the Philippines and the United States both acknowledge their “special relationship” rooted on longstanding historical and cultural ties dating back to the turn of the 20th century, despite “irritants” along the way.
Besides, the long lines applying for immigrant visas to the US tell us that many Filipinos want to partake of the so-called “American Dream” amid dire economic prospects at home.
The visit last week of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for meetings with President Marcos Jr. and Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo underscores the strengthening of US-Philippines relations, particularly on economic cooperation and climate change response.
We see the new administration striving to maintain cordial relations with both Washington and Beijing in the next six years amid their increasingly discordant views on key issues.
What’s important is to uphold the national interest at all times, and avoid situations that will be seen as favoring one against the other, even if most Filipinos clearly trust the US the most at this point.