In this May 18, 2018, file photo, protesters display placards during a rally at the Chinese Consulate to protest China's deployment of missiles on the Philippine-claimed reefs in South China Sea in the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines. Filipino officials say China's coast guard has continued to seize the catches of Filipino fishermen at a disputed shoal.
AP/Bullit Marquez, File photo
Poll: Filipinos say it’s important to regain control of West Philippine Sea
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - July 21, 2018 - 1:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — Most Filipinos believe it is highly crucial for the Philippines to regain control of islands and shoals it claims in the disputed South China Sea, where rival claimant Beijing has been increasing its power projection capabilities, a new poll showed.

The Philippines claims parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone and calls it the West Philippine Sea.

In a June 27 to 30 poll of 1,200 adults by Social Weather Stations, 87 percent of respondents said it is “important” for the Philippines to assert its sovereign rights on islands in the West Philippine Sea that China occupied.

Sixty-nine percent of Filipinos also said China is afraid to face any court.

Ties between China and the Philippines soured after the previous Aquino administration filed a case in 2013 with a United Nations-backed tribunal, which does not have an enforcement mechanism. The ruling favors Manila and was handed down a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.

But China vehemently rejected the landmark decision, which Duterte put on the back burner in exchange for warmer ties and Chinese funding for his administration’s ambitious infrastructure program.

Duterte has also been under fire over his apparent refusal to confront China, which recently landed nuclear-capable strategic bombers and installed missile systems on outposts in the contested waters.

It was also reported that Chinese coast guards have been forcibly taking the best catches of Filipino fishermen at the disputed Scarborough shoal, which is well within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

According to the SWS poll, 65 percent of respondents were aware of the reported Chinese confiscations of Filipino fishermen's catch. Majority of Filipinos also knew that Philippines is unable to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in Philippine waters, and that China broke its promise not to militarize the area.

The pollster also found that the government’s seeming inaction against China eroded public satisfaction with Duterte, especially among those aware of the maritime row.

Meanwhile, 43 percent said the Duterte administration’s refusal to protest Beijing’s actions is not a form of treachery, while 29 percent thought otherwise. Twenty-eight percent were undecided.

The survey has sampling error margins of ±3 percent for national percentages, and ±6 percent each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

SOUTH CHINA SEA ROW WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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