4 years after historic win, big majority of Filipinos still want PH to assert Hague ruling

Four years since the Philippines won its historic case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a big majority of Filipinos want their government to assert the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea, a Social Weathers Station (SWS) survey released on Tuesday, July 14, showed. 

According to the results of the SWS survey presented at the Stratbase ADR forum held on Tuesday, Filipinos maintained their strong stand on the issue with 70% in agreement with the statement, “The Philippine Government should assert its rights over the islands in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.”

The release of the nationwide mobile phone survey results, conducted from July 3 to 6, comes on the heels of the 4th anniversary of the Philippines' legal victory against China over the South China Sea on July 12. 

The findings are slightly lower than the 87% who agreed with the same statement in July 2019, through SWS said the net agreement score in 2020 remained “extremely strong.” 

The Philippines marked the 4th anniversary of the historical award by issuing its strongest statement on the ruling so far, calling it “non-negotiable” and urging China to comply with it in “good faith.”  (READ: China rejects Philippines' call to comply with Hague ruling)

Months leading up to the anniversary of the ruling likewise saw the Philippines citing the ruling in diplomatic protests more frequently, as it opposed China’s incursions in Philippine waters. 

Despite this, President Rodrigo Duterte often shelved the ruling as he prioritized nurturing close ties with China. Duterte had only raised the ruling in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last year, where Xi reiterated that China will not budge on its position.  

Complete rejection

SWS president Mahar Mangahas said the findings showing Filipinos’ unfavorable sentiments towards China have remained consistent despite the Duterte administration’s policies which have often been viewed to favor China. 

“This is a case where you have the Filipino people as a whole, rejecting completely the position of the administration vis a vis China, even though they would say they find the administration popular to them,” Mangahas said. 

The survey also found that 82% of Filipinos agree with the statement, “The Philippines should form alliances with other democratic countries that are ready to help us in defending our territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.” 

This was largely unchanged from a similar statement fielded by SWS in June 2019, where 84% agreed with the statement.

Like the Philippines, Southeast Asian states as well as the United States have recently cited the ruling in objecting China’s aggressive actions in the strategic waterway. 

Experts and long time observers of the South China Sea dispute noted that the increasing recognition of the Hague ruling’s importance may pave the way for stronger cooperation among Southeast Asian states. 

The survey used mobile phone and computer-assisted telephone interviewing for 1,555 Filipinos aged 18 years old and above nationwide, with a sampling error margin of ±2% for national percentages.

The survey was commissioned by the Stratbase Albert Del Rosario (ADR) Institute. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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