93% of Pinoys say Philippines must regain China-occupied islands

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
93% of Pinoys say Philippines must regain  China-occupied islands
The survey, conducted from June 22 to 26 with the results released Wednesday, showed 93 percent of the 1,200 adult respondents saying it is important for the country to retake the disputed territories.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Nine in every 10 Filipinos believe that it is important for the Philippines to regain control of Chinese-occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea, according to a recent survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The survey, conducted from June 22 to 26 with the results released Wednesday, showed 93 percent of the 1,200 adult respondents saying it is important for the country to retake the disputed territories.

Four percent were undecided, while only one percent said it was not important.

SWS said the proportion of those who believe in the importance of retaking the islands has proportionally increased since last year.

The latest figure was up four points from the 89 percent obtained last December, and six points higher than the 87 percent in June and September last year.

The survey also showed an increase in the number of people saying the government should take action on the Chinese occupation of Philippine territories.

Eighty-nine percent said it is not right for the Philippines to just leave China alone with its heavy infrastructure and military presence. The figure is up one point from 88 percent in December.

The percentage of respondents who said the country should refer the issue to international organizations such as the United Nations increased six points from 77 percent in December to 83 percent in June.

Meanwhile, the percentage of those who said the government should strengthen its military capability went down by a point, from 93 percent to 92 percent.

Eighty-four percent agreed that the Philippines should form alliances that could help the country defend its interests in the West Philippines.

The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus three percent, was conducted following the June 9 Recto Bank incident where a Philippine fishing boat sank after being hit by a Chinese vessel.

Prepare now

With no end in sight to China’s encroachment on Philippine waters, the country must now “prepare for all possibilities,” according to Sen. Richard Gordon.

“We have to think of all the possibilities in a situation where there are always claims and counter-claims. All these scenarios must be assessed by the National Security Council and a think tank composed of experts on foreign policy and defense,” Gordon said.

“We all know there is always contention in that area, so we must be prepared for whatever happens there,” he said.

Today, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is set to lead protests to mark the third anniversary of the international arbitral court’s ruling that invalidated China’s massive claim in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the Philippines’ maritime entitlements.

“Protests are expected throughout the country and in Filipino communities overseas, with the unifying call ‘Atin ang Pinas’ as the banner. It is important that Filipinos mark the anniversary of the historic ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It shows the world that we continue to uphold this legal victory, that it is not being set aside just so the Philippine government can avail of loans and crumbs in our own exclusive economic zone,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes.

He added that the protest action would be a strong rebuke of the Duterte administration’s continuing subservience to China. “It is a rejection of Duterte’s false dilemma of war as the only outcome of any assertion of our legal victory. It is a call for justice for Filipino fishermen victimized by China’s fishing vessel in Recto Bank,” he said.

“Despite the constant warnings of the President that war is the only outcome of any assertion of our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, an overwhelming number of Filipinos still believe it is important to reclaim China’s occupied islands, appeal to international bodies for support and forge alliances with other countries toward a peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea. The number of Filipinos who believe the issue is important has also increased in the 2nd quarter of the year,” Reyes said.


He also noted that Filipinos are not buying Duterte’s constant warnings of war. Filipinos believe that it is not right to just allow China to build military facilities in the islands in the West Philippine Sea.

The group said participants in the protest activity at the Chinese consulate in Makati are encouraged to bring Philippine flags and symbols of fishermen and aquatic resources. 

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo turned the tables on human rights lawyer Chel Diokno after the latter insinuated that the government might have done something that made local fishermen withdraw from a writ of kalikasan petition with the Supreme Court.

“I think it is the other way around, I think he should ask himself in the mirror because that question applies to him. Because if we were to believe the affidavit of the fishermen, it’s them that influenced or manipulated them,” Panelo said.

Panelo referred to some of the fishermen’s claim in their affidavits that they did not ask the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for assistance for the protection of the environment at Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal and Panganiban Reef. 

Instead, fishermen Wilfredo Labandelo, Rolando Labandelo and Nilo Labrador said the assistance they had sought was for the closure of a school and the demolition of their houses in Sitio Kinabukasan in Zambales.

“Because I understand the very reason why fishermen went to them was because their houses were being demolished, and they have a problem not with regard to that, and they were asked to sign documents, yun pala petition na. Yun ang istorya ng mga fishermen,” the spokesman added.

He reiterated that President Duterte still prefers tapping diplomatic channels in resolving conflicts in the West Philippine Sea.

“I don’t know if that is the only way, but the issue of the matter is whether or not petitioners indeed filed that petition in their behalf,” he said, when asked if the writ of kalikasan is the only strategy that can be invoked for protection of the country’s territorial rights.  –  With Christina Mendez, Rhodina Villanueva

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