Filipinos favor working with US — poll

Filipinos favor working with US — poll

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

MOST Filipinos want the Philippine government to work with the United States amid rising tensions with China, a new poll released by Pulse Asia Research, Inc. showed.

Seventy-nine percent of Filipinos said the Philippines should work with the US as the dispute between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea poses threats to the national economy and security, think tank Stratbase Institute ADR said in a statement, citing the Pulse Asia survey that it commissioned.

The poll conducted from Dec. 3-7, 2023, also showed that following the US, the Philippines much favors working with Australia (43%) and Japan (42%).

Meanwhile, only one out of 10 Filipinos or 10% favored working with China, the think tank said.

“As evidenced by the survey results, 90% of Filipinos are not in favor of working with China. This is only natural, as the Philippines continue to encounter aggressive and coercive acts in the West Philippine Sea,” Stratbase Institute ADR President Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit said.

On the economic front, Mr. Manhit said the Philippines has decreased its participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which had been embraced by Mr. Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The most important reason to defend Philippine claims in the South China Sea — as cited by respondents — is the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s expansive claims, the survey found. Some 31% of the respondents cited it.

It was followed by the need to maintain the country’s sovereign and territorial integrity (27%) and protect marine resources from further destruction and prevent the abuse of valuable resources (23%).

Stratbase said 67% of Filipinos think the government needs to strengthen the country’s external defense capability to assert its claims in the waterway.

It said 56% of Filipinos also believe there is a need to reinforce the country’s alliances and partnerships with like-minded countries through the conduct of joint patrols and military exercises (56%), establish stronger military presence in the West Philippine Sea by repairing the BRP Sierra Madre and by conducting regular resupply missions, ensure effective control of the Ayungin shoal (52%) and improve inter-agency cooperation among agencies involved in maritime security (52%).

The US, Japan, and Australia have been at the forefront of international condemnation of China’s intrusions into Philippine waters.

“Their resounding statements of support boost the confidence of the Philippines in the international community,” Mr. Manhit said. “In the face of asymmetric security challenges, the Philippines must leverage its relations with states with shared values and with the same commitment to defend the rules-based international order.”

The Philippines is America’s oldest treaty ally in the Indo-Pacific region. Their ties have been relatively special despite the Philippines becoming a US colony in the 1940s and even as Mr. Marcos’ predecessor pursued a pivot to China and away from the US and other western powers.

In February, last year, Mr. Marcos announced a decision giving the US access to four military bases on top of the five existing sites under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement — a move that has angered China and has been opposed by Filipino patriotic groups.

Opposition to the Philippines’ security alliance with the US is nothing new, with senators backed by nationalist forces rejecting the renewal of a bilateral military bases agreement between the two countries in 1991.

The decision led to the dismantling of an American air base in Clark, Pampanga and a US naval base in Subic, Olongapo. The two sites, which are now economic hubs, are located north of the capital Manila.

“In the face of asymmetric security challenges, the Philippines must leverage its relations with states with shared values and with the same commitment to defend the rules-based international order,” Mr. Manhit said.