Filipinos still favor US over China, but gap narrows: study

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 22 2017 05:29 PM

MANILA - More Filipinos still hold a favorable view of the United States than China, but this positive perception has dipped under President Donald Trump, an American think tank said.

The Pew Research Center, in its study released Thursday, found that while Filipinos also have positive views of China and President Xi Jinping, "the perception gap between the US and China in the Philippines is narrowing."

While the Filipinos' attitude toward China and its leader barely changed since 2015, opinions of the US and its president declined from the highs posted under former President Barack Obama.

As of spring 2017, 78 percent have a positive view of the US, lower than the 92 percent in 2015.

There was also a dip in the people's confidence in the American leader, where only 69 percent believe Trump will do the right thing in world affairs. In 2015, 94 percent expressed such confidence in Obama.

Meanwhile, 55 percent of the surveyed Filipinos had a favorable view of China in 2017, up only a percentage point from the 54 percent in 2015.

There was also little change in the population's confidence in Xi doing the "right thing regarding world affairs," up only to 53 percent from 51 percent in 2015.

On global economic status, about half of Filipinos (49 percent) said the US was still the leading economic power. This number was down from 66 percent who held the same opinion in 2015.

Conversely, the number of Filipinos who name China as the world's economic leader increased to 25 percent from 14 percent the last time the Philippines was surveyed.

Under President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila has sought warmer ties with China while distancing itself from western forces such as the United States and the European Union.

He had been a vocal critic of the US after it raised concern on the deaths of thousands of drug suspects in his crackdown on narcotics.

Before Duterte's assumption to the presidency, relations between Manila and Beijing had been tense after former President Benigno Aquino III lodged a case against China over maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea.

The countries were embroiled in controversy along with other Southeast Asian nations for overlapping claims in territories in the South China Sea.

Aquino raised the issue to the international tribunal after a tense standoff between Chinese coast guard ships and a Philippine naval vessel in the Scarborough Shoal.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 ruled in favor of the Philippines and devoided China's historical claim over the disputed area.