Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, reviews the troops with Philippine Air Force chief LT.Gen Galileo Kintanar Jr. during the wreath-laying ceremony at the 71st Founding Anniversary of the Air Force at Villamor Air Base in suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines Tuesday, July 3, 2018.
AP/Bullit Marquez
Pulse Asia: 7 in 10 Filipinos want Duterte to assert rights in West Philippine Sea
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - July 12, 2018 - 4:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — A significant majority of Filipinos believe that the Duterte administration should assert the country's right and protect its sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, according to a Pulse Asia survey released Thursday.

A survey commissioned by independent think tank Stratbase ADR Institute showed that 73 percent of Filipinos want the Philippine government to assert its sovereignty claims as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Only 7 percent of the respondents disagreed when asked whether they want the Duterte administration to assert the country's territorial sovereignty while 17 percent were undecided.

The survey was released on the second anniversary of the arbitral ruling, which invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

The Pulse Asia survey also showed that a plurality of Filipinos or 36 percent share the opinion that the country should protest the China's continuous militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

About 22 percent said that the Philippines should strengthen military alliance with other countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia while 21 percent said the government should continue its current action of befriending China to avoid conflict.

Only 16 percent said the Duterte administration should strengthen the military's capability to protect the country's territories.

The Duterte administration has held that its focus on developing diplomatic and economic relations with China does not mean it has given up its claims in the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims and calls the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte claimed in May that he would have wanted to take a "stronger, possibly more violent" stand, but "in my own estimation, it would probably be a great loss to the nation and probably end up losing a war." 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte's approach "forged friendship which has obtained benefits for our people, boosted investment and trade for our economy, reduced the threat of conflict, and opened the door to confidence-building talks between ASEAN and China."

Pinoys still trust US most

Meanwhile, the United States, Japan and Australia are the top three countries that Filipinos trust the most with an overall score of 74 percent, 45 percent and 32 percent, respectively, in the latest poll.

China only ranked fourth in the survey with 17 percent, followed by South Korea (14 percent), Russia (10 percent), the United Kingdom (9 percent), Vietnam (5 percent) and India (2 percent).

On the other hand, 33 percent said that they trust the ASEAN, which only a point higher than the United Nations's 32-percent trust rating.

Among regional associations, Filipinos appear to trust the European Union the least as it scored only seven percent.

The Philippines and the United States have been allies for 70 years since the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty. The two countries also have an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, which allows the presence of American troops in the country.

Japan and Australia, which are also US allies, have also been consistent on its position in conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea so as to counter China's dominance in the region.

Despite the Philippines' victory at the tribunal ruling two years ago, the Duterte administration had set aside the ruling to seek stronger ties with China.

PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES RODRIGO DUTERTE SOUTH CHINA SEA US-PHILIPPINES TIES WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 12, 2018 - 3:25pm

Social media users, including former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, are reporting seeing banners saying "Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China" hanging from overpasses in parts of Metro Manila.

The sightings coincide with the second anniversary of an arbitral tribunal ruling that China's sweeping nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea has no legal basis. The Philippines has opted to play down the ruling and focus on nurturing better political and economic relations with China.

It is unclear who put up the banners, which are a possible reference to a "joke" that President Rodrigo Duterte told Chinese-Filipino business leaders in February. 

"He (Xi) is a man of honor. They can even make us 'Philippines, province of China," we will even avail of services for free," Duterte said in apparent jest. "If China were a woman, I'd woo her."

The Palace said the remark was meant to impress the audience, who were Filipino citizens of Chinese descent.

July 12, 2018 - 3:25pm

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in response to criticism from former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario of the Duterte administration's handling of issues in the West Philippine Sea, says: "We do not agree with those who lost control of territory by their confrontational hubris."

He says President Rodrigo Duterte has instead "forged friendship which has obtained benefits for our people, boosted investment and trade for our economy, reduced the threat of conflict, and opened the door to confidence-building talks between ASEAN and China."

He says issues with China are handled through a dialogue between friends and not as an argument between adevrsaries.

"All this time, we are building up our capabilities to eventually assert our sovereign rights and interests. That is the policy that works for our nation," he says.

July 12, 2018 - 12:18pm

The Quezon City government has ordered its Public Safety personnel to remove tarpaulins that refer to the Philippines as a province of China.

In a Palace briefing earlier Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said "enemies of the government" are behind the banners.

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