SWS: 47% agree gov’t not moving enough on sea dispute; a third undecided | Inquirer News
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FEELING THE PULSE

SWS: 47% agree gov’t not moving enough on sea dispute; a third undecided

/ 05:22 AM July 30, 2021

Nearly half of the 1,200 respondents in a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found the government’s efforts lacking when it came to asserting the country’s rights in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Conducted from June 23 to 26, the survey found that 47 percent agreed with the statement, “The Philippine government is not doing enough to assert its rights to the country’s territories in the [WPS] as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.”

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Twenty-four percent did not agree while 29 percent were undecided, resulting in a net agreement score of “moderately strong” +23 (agree minus disagree).

The first four of the eight questions in the survey were sponsored by think tank Stratbase ADR Institute while the rest were formulated by SWS.

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The majority of the respondents favored forming alliances with other countries in defending the country’s claim in the WPS (68 percent) and building structures on the islands in the area as a strategy in the country’s territorial defense (69 percent).

The survey also listed proposals on what the government should do in defending the WPS.

Among the five, the top three responses were: Strengthen the military capability (77 percent), conduct joint military exercises with allies (65 percent), and implement the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (57 percent).

The remaining two were: Finalize the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] code of conduct (39 percent) and bring the issue to the UN General Assembly (38 percent).

On the issue of protecting fishermen’s rights, 51 percent believed government efforts were “adequate,” while 32 percent said they were “inadequate” and 17 percent were undecided. This resulted in a net adequacy score of “moderately strong” +20 (adequate minus inadequate).

Net adequacy score was higher for those with “much trust” in China at +45 than those with “little trust” in China (+9) and undecided (+20).

On protecting natural resources in the WPS, almost half or 49 percent said government action was “adequate.” Thirty percent said it was “inadequate,” while 19 percent were undecided.

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Again, the net adequacy score was higher for those with “much trust” in China at +45 compared to those with little trust (+1) and undecided (+22).

“Past surveys have always shown China as a highly distrusted country,” the SWS said.

Only 31 percent saw “much benefit” from President Duterte’s friendship with China, while 29 percent said it had “little benefit.” Forty percent were undecided.

In July 2016, the arbitration court ruled that the Philippines has exclusive rights over the WPS and that China had no legal basis to claim historic title over the whole South China Sea.

But Mr. Duterte repeatedly said that he would not insist that China recognize the arbitral ruling, lest it lead to war. —KATHLEEN DE VILLA, INQUIRER RESEARCH

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TAGS: China, survey, SWS, territory, West Philippine Sea
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