An overwhelming majority of Filipinos believe that it’s important for the Philippine government to take back its territories China has occupied, a survey released by Social Weather Stations revealed on Wednesday.
Conducted from June 22 to 26, the SWS survey found that 93 percent of respondents said that it’s important for the Philippines to regain those territories. Seventy-four percent said that it was “very important” while 19 percent said it was “somewhat important.”
This latest survey shows that more people now believe it’s important to regain control of the country’s territories, as a similar study conducted by SWS in December reported that 89 percent of Filipinos thought this.
The survey was conducted after a Filipino fishing boat was slammed and sunk by a Chinese-owned vessel near Recto Bank (aka Reed Bank) in Palawan. President Rodrigo Duterte downplayed the incident repeatedly, calling it a mere maritime incident that’s not worth declaring war for.
Duterte later said that Chinese fishermen do not have to leave the area because he made a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping that gives the Chinese permission to fish in Recto Bank even though it is owned by the Philippines. In exchange, Xi allegedly agreed to let Filipinos fish in the Scarborough Shoal, even though China does not have exclusive rights to it. Critics have said that Duterte made an impeachable offense by making this deal with Xi.
SWS’ survey also revealed that 89 percent of Filipinos said that it was “not right” for the government to let China build infrastructures in territories which the Philippines is claiming. Multiple reports and satellite images have shown that China has built air and naval bases in the Spratly Islands, which both countries are claiming.
Meanwhile, 83 percent said that it was “right” for the Philippines to bring up the issue of China invading its territories to an international body like the United Nations to find a peaceful resolution to the issue.
In 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated China’s claim over parts of the West Philippine Sea, including the Recto Bank. However, Duterte has consistently refused to uphold the decision, saying that doing so would lead to war with China.
The survey also found that 84 percent of Filipinos said it was “right” for the Philippines to form alliances with other countries in order to defend the West Philippine Sea. Finally, 92 percent said that it was “right” for the Philippines to strengthen the capability of its military, specifically the Philippine Navy.
The results of the survey were based on face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide with 300 respondents each in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.