Palace defends Russia, China ties as distrust among Filipinos remains

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 03 2017 12:15 PM | Updated as of May 03 2017 12:19 PM

A resident waves miniature Philippine-Chinese flags as a Chinese naval ship departs after a visit in Davao. Reuters

MANILA – Malacañang on Wednesday defended the Philippines’ growing closeness with Russia and China after a survey revealed majority of Filipinos still distrust the two nations considered rivals by the United States.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Filipinos must understand that the Duterte administration is charting the path of broader diplomatic relations with the international community.

“[The] renewed ties with Russia and China provide a healthy opportunity to appreciate and understand these two countries,” Abella added. 

The spokesman said the public needs a deeper understanding of the country’s need to expand its diplomatic relations.

"Our enhanced relations with China and Russia will bolster our international relations and give us more room to grow, expand, and become more rooted as we get to know ourselves better as a nation in a community of nations," he said.

A March 2017 Pulse Asia survey showed that 63 percent of the respondents expressed distrust with China, an increase of two percentage points from the December 2016 survey, while 37 percent said they trust the Asian giant. 

Russia, on the other hand, had a 56 percent distrust score, down by 2 points from the last survey. Forty-two percent of the respondents said they trust Russia. 

China and Russia’s rival, the United States, meanwhile, got a trust score of 79 percent, the highest among the countries listed in the survey, followed by Japan (75 percent), Australia (69 percent), and United Kingdom (53 percent).

The survey showed majority of the Filipinos still distrust China and Russia even as President Rodrigo Duterte, who continues to enjoy high popularity ratings, has sought to forge closer ties with the two countries while blasting the US for its criticisms to his drug war.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte makes a speech during the Philippines - China Trade and Investment Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. Wu Hong, Reuters

In a stunning diplomatic turnaround, Duterte also chose to downplay Manila’s row with Beijing over the South China Sea since he assumed the presidency.

The survey also showed that the United Nations, which has also criticized the president’s human rights record, enjoys an 82 percent trust score.