SWS: Most Filipinos back gov’t on Spratlys

KD Suarez
A survey commissioned by the DFA shows most Filipinos agree with bringing the dispute to an international court, and asking other countries' help to keep China in check

MANILA, Philippines – The Aquino government has the support of most Filipinos on how it is handling the country’s dispute with China over territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a nationwide survey showed.

The survey, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), asked it 4 questions to gauge people’s awareness about issues surrounding the Philippine-China dispute. It was conducted by the Social Weather Stations Dec 11-16, 2013, with a sample size of 1,550. The margin of error is at +/-3%. The results were released by the DFA on Monday, February 10, 

A big majority of respondents – 73% – are aware of the territorial dispute that the Philippines has with China over a group of islands called the Spratlys (locally known as Kalayaan). The rest said they only heard about the dispute during the survey.

When sorted by geographic location, the numbers are consistent: 78% for Metro Manila, 74% for the rest of Luzon, 70% in the Visayas, and 72% in Mindanao.

A big majority (68%) are also aware of the possible oil and gas deposits in the disputed area, while 61% know that the Philippines brought the case for resolution before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) (61%), the survey said.

Awareness of the issues is highest in Metro Manila: 65% in the ITLOS case, and 72% in the possible for natural resources.

A majority are also aware of the measures China is doing in the sea, particularly its strengthening of military forces (56%), the SWS said. Again, Metro Manila residents have the highest awareness of the issue at 65%.

Most Filipinos agree with the government’s filing of the case before the ITLOS: for the entire survey pool, 82% agree with the move, while 8% disagree. The remaining 8% are undecided.

Majority are also in agreement that the Philippines should ask the help of other countries to keep China’s military actions in check: 80% of the respondents nationwide agree to an extent.

The survey also revealed that almost all the respondents – 93% – of respondents agree that the country should defend its territory and natural resources in the West Philippine Sea “through lawful means.”

“The overwhelming support of the Filipino people for the arbitration case and our rules-based approach to the West Philippine Sea dispute proves that taking a principled stance, one that is based on respecting the rule of law and pursuing peaceful settlement of disputes, strongly resonates with the Filipino people,” DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said.

Among the top issues in the headlines during the survey period were the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda and the Central Visayas earthquake; the pork barrel scam; Megan Young’s victory in the Miss World pageant; and Manny Pacquiao’s win over Brandon Rios. Rappler.com

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