SWS: 8 of 10 Pinoys want next president to assert rights over West PH Sea

Published December 2, 2021, 2:05 PM

by Ben Rosario

Eight of 10 Filipinos may be expected to vote for a presidential aspirant who will strongly stand by the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea.

Dindo Manhit

A recent Social Weather Station survey reportedly indicated that at least 80 percent of Filipinos would want the next president to assert the country’s rights over the WPS, the policy think tank Stratbase ADR Institute revealed recently.

Stratbase commissioned the survey that also found that 85 percent of respondents across the country believe that the government must form an alliance with other countries to defend the economic and territorial rights of the Philippines that China has continued to threaten.

Stratbase disclosed that the SWS survey indicated that 82 percent of respondents would want the next government administration to enforce the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that recognized the Philippines exclusive right over areas contested by China.

Results of the SWS survey were revealed by Prof. Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADR Institute, in a speech delivered during the Session 4 of Pilipinas Conference 2021 entitled “Advancing Multilateralism and Strategic Partnerships: 2022 Philippine Foreign and Security Policy Outlook”.

“We need a more responsive foreign policy, built for strengthening our existing security partnerships,” Manhit stated.

He noted that the partnership with SWS allowed Stratbase to look at public opinion on issues regarding the West Philippine Sea.

“This is what the evidence tells us. This is what our people feel,” Manhit said, referring to the results of the commissioned survey.

Conducted from October 20 to 21, the survey showed that respondents from the National Capital Region came out strong about the controversy. At least 87 percent of them agree that government should make China abide by The Hague ruling.

Further, about 88 percent of respondents from the NCR and from the balance of Luzon also want the next president to seek allies among other countries.

Nationwide, respondents said the next president should strengthen the Philippine military’s capability especially the Navy and the Coast Guard (80 percent), conduct joint maritime patrols and military exercises with allies (65 percent), and fully implement the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (58 percent).

About 79 percent of respondents feel that it is important for the government to build infrastructure on vacant islands in the WPS. Only 8 percent felt the matter was not important.

The survey’s data also show that 85 percent agree that the next president should form alliances with other countries in defending territorial and economic rights in the WPS.

Respondents named the United States as the Philippines’ most trusted ally at 75 percent, followed by Australia and the United Kingdom (each 52 percent). Only 21 percent of respondents had much trust in China, with 55 percent saying they had little trust in the East Asian giant.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana keynoted the conference where he acknowledged that China continued to show signs of aggressiveness in its claims, saying that this is a serious challenge to the Philippines’ interest in the disputed territory.
 “Should the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must? I think not. The strong cannot just run over the small states,” he said.

Lorenzana said there is more incentive for countries, especially those with mutual interests, to band together as the Indo-Pacific region faces more uncertainties.

“The Philippines therefore should take a more active role in promoting multilateralism. It should lead and call on ASEAN to be more proactive in asserting the interests of its member-states, instead of being a passive stakeholder,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said multilateralism and strategic partnerships are sources of added strength in international relations.

He said multilateral cooperation is vital in addressing terrorism, transnational crime, cybercrime, and other threats that are near impossible to track down and turn off conclusively.

“Though the foremost consideration is to build up a strictly national defense—smartly navigated and wisely optimized—all these can empower us to achieve foreign policy goals of material, strategic, even existential importance,” he said.

“It would be wise for the Philippines to bring out its score card and evaluate existing multilateral engagements and strategic partnerships on the basis of national interest and an envisioned global future,” said Locsin.