MANILA - It seems President Rodrigo Duterte is going against the grain as he seeks warmer ties with Beijing on his four-day state visit to China.
A new Social Weather Stations poll shows 55 percent of Filipinos have "little trust" in the superpower, compared to 22 percent who have much trust in China. Nineteen percent of the 1,200 respondents were undecided.
SWS said the survey showed that Filipinos have a "bad" -33 net trust rating for China, down nine points and a grade from the "poor" -24 logged in June 2016.
SWS said China's net trust rating has been positive in only seven out of 40 surveys since the pollster first included it in August 1994. It said Filipinos' trust in China reached as high as a "moderate" +17 in June 2010, the start of fomer president Benigno Aquino III’s administration, and as low as a "bad" -46 in September 2015.
The survey was conducted from September 24 to 27 through face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide. The survey has a ±3 percentage-point sampling error margin.
Duterte heads to China later Tuesday seeking billions of dollars in investments and buckets of respect, as he pivots angrily away from traditional ally the United States.
He is bringing along a delegation of hundreds of businessmen, including many of the Philippines' most powerful tycoons, in a bid to capitalize on the warming of relations that have taken place due to his efforts to placate Beijing on the South China Sea row.
Duterte seeks money, respect in China
During the election campaign, Duterte said he was willing to "set aside" the South China Sea dispute in return for China building a railway through the impoverished southern Philippine region of Mindanao.
He later said the Philippines will not relinquish its claims to the South China Sea after Manila won an arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s historic claims to the sea.
"We will not give up anything there. Those are our entitlements. Every country in the world is given their own fish pond. You cannot give that up, you can only negotiate to prevent war," Duterte said in interview with Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera.
"Not even the President of this country can give up the claim. You are not allowed to do that. That is one sure way to impeachment," he added.
Duterte on South China Sea: We won't give up anything
The ruling has dealt a blow to China's extensive claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has refused to recognize the case and has chided any country telling it to abide by the ruling.
With reports by BusinessWorld, Agence France-Presse and Reuters