MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday slammed a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing that most Filipinos oppose the government’s supposed inaction on China’s military encroachment in South China Sea.
In a report released Monday night ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit in the country, the SWS said 84 percent of respondents said "it is not right for the government to leave China alone with its infrastructures and military presence in the claimed territories."
The latest figure is 3 points higher in June, which yielded 81 percent.
Results from the survey, conducted from Sept. 15 to 23 among 1,500 adults, also showed that 87 percent of respondents said the country should regain control of the islands occupied by China.
Awareness on the issue also rose to 89 percent, which is 8 points higher from the last poll.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo slammed the survey questionnaire, which he believed was skewed in order to arrive at a particular result. Thus, the Palace views the results with skepticism as the reliability of the data is in question, he added.
“We consider the question skewed as it misleads the public to believe and suggests that the current government has not acted on China’s activities on the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea,” Panelo said in a statement.
“This is far from the truth. The Duterte administration has been consistent in its stance in protecting our territorial claims and maritime entitlements.”
Panelo also noted that the government has formed, together with the Chinese government, a bilateral consultation mechanism “as an important venue in amicably resolving territorial disputes and to strengthen the momentum of cooperation in matters of common interest, such as the protection of our fishermen.”
The survey also found that 65 percent of respondents are aware that "the Chinese coast guard has forced Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea to turn over their catch."
SWS said that 71 percent of respondents said the government should raise the issue to international organizations, such as the United Nations, for diplomatic negotiation with China.
Despite improved relations between Manila and Beijing, China continued to hold a negative impression among Filipinos.
SWS said that China was rated "poor" in the Sept. survey with -16. Its net trust in June was rated "bad" with -35.
Public trust in China has been positive in only 9 out of 47 surveys since SWS first surveyed it in August 1994.
The major polling firm said that distrust in China was higher among those who were aware that China created artificial islands, which were used as military airbases.
Meanwhile, the country's longtime ally United States kept a "very good" rating. It yielded +59, which is 6 points below from the last survey.
Japan, Malaysia, and Israel, on the other hand, obtained a neutral net trust rating.
Panelo said the US and Japan’s strong showing in the survey is expected since they are the Philippines’ long-standing ally.
“Our country’s renewed ties with our giant neighbor in the North provides us a welcome opportunity for the public to know and understand China better. It does not happen overnight but we are confident that a more favorable public appreciation of China would happen in the future,” Panelo said.
The SWS survey was released on the day Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit the Philippines.
Panelo said the release of the survey was suspect.
“This adds credence to the commonly-held belief that polling firms could be wittingly or unwittingly used for partisan purposes,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has opted to downplay the Philippines’ maritime dispute with China in pursuit of improved economic ties with the world’s second-largest economy. As he pivoted towards China, Duterte tried to distance the Philippines from its long-standing ally, the United States, a move partly fueled by Washington’s criticism of his drug war and human rights record.
China is now considered a top trading partner of the Philippines, a leading export market for the Philippines, and one of the largest tourist origins to the Philippines, Panelo noted, even as analysis showed that Duterte’s move to improve ties with Beijing has produced a small dividend in terms of infrastructure investment so far.
Duterte had said that despite his government’s rapprochement with China, he will never surrender the country’s claims to the sea and will bring up at the appropriate time Manila’s arbitration victory against Beijing. His recent statement that China is now “in possession” of the South China Sea, however, has alarmed critics and observers. With a report by Da Vinci Maru, ABS-CBN News