Support up for military patrols in West Philippine Sea – OCTA poll

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Support up for military patrols in West Philippine Sea � OCTA poll
More than 50 Chinese vessels swarm the vicinity of Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, July 7.
AFP Wescom

MANILA, Philippines — More Filipinos support expanded naval patrols and troop presence in the West Philippine Sea to assert the country’s territorial rights in the area, a recent survey conducted by OCTA Research showed.

From 65 percent in October, those supporting increased military activities in the WPS has increased to 72 percent in a similar survey conducted from Dec. 10 to 14.

The survey respondents were asked to select up to three measures they think the government should prioritize to address issues in the WPS.

Some 70 percent selected diplomacy and other peaceful methods, similar to the October survey, while 66 percent cited the need to modernize and strengthen the Philippine military, which is up from 62 percent.

Other issues included in the survey were conducting joint maritime patrol and exercises with ally countries, 42 percent; expand diplomatic efforts with countries within and outside the region to reduce tension, 37 percent; shelve disputes for joint economic development in the area, 14 percent.

The survey was conducted amid China’s aggressive actions against Philippine vessels inside the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Over the weekend, another harassment incident was reported, involving Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) personnel and Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal, mere days after Filipino and Chinese officials agreed to deescalate the conflict during a meeting in Shanghai last Jan. 17.

Based on the survey, support for military action – defined as “expanded naval patrols and troop presence” – was highest among those in Metro Manila at 83 percent, followed by those in the Visayas at 76 percent, Mindanao at 71 percent and rest of Luzon at 67 percent.

Meanwhile, support for diplomatic action and other peaceful means was also highest among those in Metro Manila at 79 percent, followed by those in Mindanao at 72 percent, rest of Luzon at 68 percent and the Visayas at 66 percent.

The survey had 1,200 respondents and a margin of error of plus/minus three percent.

Lack of forces

After the latest incident, fishers’ group Pamalakaya hit the Marcos administration for the lack of naval forces at Panatag Shoal.

“Over a year into his administration, President Marcos is responsible for the lack of a clear plan on how to protect the rights of fishermen and national sovereignty,” Pamalakaya secretary general Salvador France said in a statement.

France said it is questionable that the Philippine Coast Guard and Navy have no presence at Panatag. She said such presence would have deterred the CCG from harassing the Filipino fishermen.

“They have no basis to stop Filipinos from fishing in our traditional fishing grounds,” France said. — Emmanuel Tupas

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