This website requires JavaScript.

82% Say Next President Must Assert Sea Rights – SWS

82% Say Next President Must Assert Sea Rights – SWS
The Philippine Coast Guard and the China Coast Guard conduct joint maritime drills on search and rescue as well combatting fire at sea in the vicinity of Manila Bay on Jan. 15, 2020. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

More than 80% of Filipinos want the next president to assert the country’s rights over the West Philippine Sea, according to a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey commissioned by policy think tank Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi).

Results of the survey show that 82% of respondents nationwide believe that the next administration should enforce the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which recognizes the Philippines’ exclusive rights over the West Philippine Sea and invalidated China’s claim of “historic rights” to resources within Beijing’s “nine-dash line.”

It also found that 85% of respondents across the country want to seek an alliance with other countries to defend the Philippines’ economic and territorial rights.

Prof. Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADR Institute, said in his remarks at a forum that the next leaders have the opportunity to rectify the current foreign policy.

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

The partnership with SWS has 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.

Data from the survey, conducted on Oct. 20 to 21 this year, show that respondents from the National Capital Region (NCR) were the most passionate about the issue, with 87% agreeing that the government should make China abide by the ruling of the international tribunal based in The Hague.

About 88% 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%), conduct joint maritime patrols and military exercises with allies (65%) and fully implement the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (58%).

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

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

Respondents named the United States as the Philippines’ most trusted ally at 75%, followed by Australia and the United Kingdom (each 52%).

Only 21% of respondents had much trust in China, with 55% saying they had little trust in the Asian giant.

International relations experts called on Filipino voters to reject China’s “puppet” candidates in the 2022 national elections as they see more pressure on aspirants to clarify their position on the West Philippine Sea.

Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal said candidates who are “puppets” of China should not be elected to office.

He said foreign policy is now a major issue as more people have been asking for information and guidance on the West Philippine Sea developments, “unlike 20 yeas ago (when) this was a topic for few heads in the room.”

“It’s not just Manchurian candidates, let’s call them puppets. There are puppets running for office and we need to be careful – and do not vote for them. The West Philippines Sea will not survive another six years of policy this administration initiated,” Batongbacal said at the forum.

“We have to make the people get past the image, get past the soft campaign, propaganda and the lies and let them see the candidates, see who they really are and make a decision – what is good for the country in six years, not what is good for the wallet in the next six days,” he added.

Renato de Castro said the country cannot afford another six years of leadership promoting another version of appeasement policy.

“We can’t simply accept people who don’t care about foreign policy. We can’t afford anymore another six years of leaders – defeatist and adopting another version of appeasement. We should be wary of Manchurian candidates,” De Castro said.

Former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario called on Filipinos to reject Manchurian candidates who are beholden to China, as he warned that their getting elected would be “in-comprehensibly catastrophic” for the Philippines.

“These Manchurian candidates will deploy full power and money for the 2022 elections. If elected, they will rot the soul of our nation and undermine its pillars, leading to a bleak and tragic future for our countrymen,” Del Rosario said in a statement.

The Filipino people, he said, should view with grave concern the fact that presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had been visiting Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian around the time that the ousted dictator’s son filed his certificate of candidacy for president in October.