SURVEY: Most Filipinos want government to assert claim over West Philippine Sea

Filipino activists march towards the Chinese embassy in Manila to protest against China’s construction in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea. Photo via ABS-CBN.

A survey released yesterday showed that seven out of 10 Filipinos want President Rodrigo Duterte’s government to assert the country’s right over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The survey, conducted on June 15 to 21 by Pulse Asia, showed that 73 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement, “The Duterte administration should assert our right and protect our territorial sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.”

A similar survey asked the same question in December 2016, which showed a higher level of agreement at 84 percent.

The current survey said that 34 percent of respondents believe that the government should file a diplomatic protest against China’s militarization of the disputed waters.

It also asked respondents about the countries or organizations they trusted the most. 74 percent said they trusted the United States, followed by Japan at 45 percent, Australia at 32 percent and China at 17 percent.

33 percent said they trusted the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Meanwhile, 32 percent said they trusted the United Nations.

Duterte has not been on good terms with the UN.

In March, Duterte said that members of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) should be fed to crocodiles, and insisted that police officers should ignore UNCHR’s representatives when they investigate the alleged human rights abuses committed during the government’s war on drugs.

A total of 1,800 people were polled for the survey, which was conducted via interviews. The survey was commissioned by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, an independent research organization.

The survey was released two years after the Philippines won in The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, which rendered China’s nine-dash line — a vague demarcation line used by the latter to asserts its claims over the WPS — invalid.

Duterte refuses to enforce the ruling, an action described by Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio as “inexplicable.”

Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario also said that the country has become a “willing victim” of China due to the inaction of the government.

The survey comes at the heels of the overwhelming outrage felt by Filipinos when banners mysteriously appeared all over Manila which read: “WELCOME TO THE PHILIPPINES, PROVINCE OF CHINA,” along with its Chinese translations.

This was a direct reference to a statement Duterte made in February where he joked about making the Philippines a province of China during an event with China’s ambassador to the Philippines.

It remains unclear who installed the banners and when. Manila’s police are still investigating the issue.

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