No change in policies has been made yet by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) based on the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey results that showed Filipinos’ positive response to Manila’s actions against China’s intrusive behavior in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said the department was “encouraged” and “empowered” by the results of the survey, but he admitted that there are no plans yet as to how the results will affect their policies.
“The result came very lately. There has been no discussions yet on how the results of the survey will change our policy,” he said.
According to the “Survey on Selected Foreign Relations Issues” commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and conducted from December 11 to 16 last year, 73 percent are aware of the dispute between Manila and Beijing while 68 percent are aware that the region holds vast amount of mineral and oil deposits.
Furthermore, 61 percent are also aware that the Philippines filed a case against China before the United Nations and a smaller 56% are aware that China has been strengthening its military forces in the region.
Hernandez said that the survey is an indication of whether or not there is public support for the Philippines’ move to bring the case to arbitration.
Based on the survey, 82 percent either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” to Manila’s filing of an arbitration case before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
The Philippines filed the case on January 22 last year in response to what it perceived as China’s increasing aggressiveness in the region. Beijing rejected the invitation on February 19 last year.
Of the respondents, 8 percent are “undecided,” 5 percent “somewhat disagree” and 3 percent “strongly disagree.”
On the question of the Filipinos’ agreement if the Philippines should ask the help of others to counter China’s increasing military movements in the region, 80 percent of the respondents “strong/somewhat agree,” 8 percent are “undecided” and 9 percent are “somewhat/strongly disagree.”
Ninety three percent of Filipinos also agreed that the Philippines “should defend the territory and natural resources in the West Philippine Sea through lawful means.”
Two percent said “no” while the remaining 5 percent “don’t know.”
The survey also asked Filipinos if the international law “is a great equalizer against countries that are stronger militarily and economically.”
On this question, 77 percent of the Filipinos answered “yes,” 15 percent answered “no” and 8 percent answered “don’t know.”
Based on the survey, Filipinos in the National Capital Region (NCR) and those who finished college or took up post-graduate courses are more bound to support the Philippines in its case against China.
They are also in better agreement with the Philippines with regards to its decision to file an arbitration case against the Asian economic powerhouse.
Triggered by the WPS issue
Hernandez said that during the height of the conflict with China, the department thought there is a need “to find out exactly what was the pulse of the people as to the issue of the West Philippine Sea.”
“That is why there are more questions about West Philippine Sea issues than the other two pillars [of Philippine foreign policy,” he said.
The three pillars of foreign policy are the preservation of national security, promotion of economic security and protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The department said the survey was commissioned to help them further fulfill its mandate and enhance public diplomacy. But the survey is observably focused on the country’s issue with China’s growing aggression in the region.
“We wanted more questions for WPS because [there are]different factors that have to be known and learned from that issue,” Hernandez said.
The official furthered that survey questions especially formulated for the two other pillars (economic security and protection of OFWs) can follow through.
“Now, we found out that the people overwhelmingly support the rule of law approach of the government in the WPS issue and that they are behind and they strongly and fully support the arbitration case we have filed against China,” he added.
Although he doesn’t want to make any assumptions, the department does welcome the results of the survey.
Hernandez clarified that the survey results will not, in any way, affect the department’s preparation for the submission of the Memorial in March 30 to the five-member tribunal.
But he admitted the department is encouraged by the results showing “the people of the Philippines are behind the decision of the government” to bring the issue before the United Nations.
As a country, the Filipinos’ trust on China has been “negative” since 2012, the year Beijing allegedly intruded into the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey said Monday.
The survey was not part of the “Survey on Selected Foreign Relations Issues” commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and conducted from December 11 to 16 last year.
According to SWS’ own survey of the Filipinos’ trust on countries (the nations change from time to time), China’s trust rating declined in the past three years.
In 2013, it has a -17 rating while in 2012, during the height of the intrusions, it received a -30 rating.
In the years preceding 2012, China has received positive response from the Filipino people except in 2003, 1999 and 1995.
The United States received the highest trust rating of +82; Australia, +52; Japan, +47; Taiwan, +11; and Malaysia, +8.
The survey did not indicate what other countries were asked in the survey.
SWS President Mahar Mangahas did not want to speculate, however, if the decline in China’s trust rating was based on the conflict between Manila and Beijing.
“I think you only have to look at the events from 2012 to 2013. We have been tracking China regularly because they are visible in our foreign relations front [in the past years],” he added.
In the DFA-commissioned survey, it revealed that 35 percent of the respondents were aware about China’s establishment of infrastructures in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Last year, China established the Sansha City, which will have jurisdiction on its claims in the region–major parts of which extends to the Philippines’ coastal lines.
Based on the survey, Mangahas said the Filipino public is generally aware of the conflict between China and the Philippines.
The survey questions were drafted by SWS and approved by the department, Mangahas said.
The survey has a sample size of 1,550–300 in Metro Manila, 300 in Balance Luzon, 650 in Visayas and 300 in Mindanao.
It has a margin of error of +/-3 percent for the whole country, +/- 6 percent for Metro Manila, +/- 6 percent for Balance Luzon, +/- 4 percent for Visayas and +/- 6 percent for Mindanao. BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON