Some 73 percent of Filipinos believe the Duterte administration should exercise sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, the latest Pulse Asia survey shows.
This was down from 84 percent in December 2016, two years after a United Nations tribunal ruled in the Philippines’ favor by finding China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea to be excessive.
“A plurality of Filipinos are of opinion that the Philippines should file a diplomatic protest in relation to the continuous militarization of the Chinese in our territories in the West Philippine Sea,” said Pulse Asia Phils. president Ronald D. Holmes in a forum Thursday.
The survey also showed that the US, Japan, and Australia, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United Nations are trusted by a plurality to a significant majority of Filipinos.
But Filipinos ranked concerns over the defense of the country’s territorial integrity against foreigners only 11th out of 15 national concerns.
At the same forum, acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said educating Filipinos that they have sovereign rights in the area is the first step in rallying the international community to establish a rule-based system in the West Philippine Sea.
He added that the next step is to enter a conversation with the rest of the world to comply with the ruling.
China has refused to recognize the authority of the UN tribunal, however, and does not accept its verdict.
The Pulse Asia survey was conducted from June 15 to 25, and queried 1,800 participants.
About 46 percent of the participants strongly agreed and 27 percent somewhat agreed that the administration must assert the ruling that invalidated China’s claim in the West Philippine Sea.
Only 17 percent are in the middle while 4 percent somewhat disagree and 3 percent strongly disagree with enforcing the decision.
Two percent admitted that they did not have enough knowledge to give an opinion.
The same survey showed that 34 percent of Filipinos believe the Philippines should file a diplomatic protest against the militarization of the West Philippine Sea.
Some 22 percent believe the Philippines must strengthen its military alliances with the US, Japan, Australia, and other countries and 16 percent want the Philippines to strengthen its own military capabilities.
Only 21 percent want to continue the government’s program to befriend China.
Filipinos still have a high amount of trust in the United States (74 percent), Japan (45 percent), and Australia (32 percent) in comparison to China (17 percent), the Pulse Asia survey said.
On the second year of the Hague ruling invalidating China’s claim, the government said it will continue to assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque assured the public that the Duterte administration will not give up the country’s rights in the WPS.