Aquino urges 'unity' vs China as issue divides PH

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, July 27, urged unity behind the Philippines' moves against China as surveys show Filipinos remain divided on bringing the Asian giant to court. 

Referring to China, Aquino said in last State of the Nation Address (SONA): "Ang ating kabangga, 'di hamak na mas lamang sa impluwensya man, ekonomiya, o puwersa militar. Pero sa batayan ng katwiran at pagmamahal sa bayan, hindi po tayo nahuhuli."

(Our opponent, no doubt, is much greater in terms of economic or military influence. But on the basis of reason and love for country, we are not far behind.)

"Kaya gaya sa lahat ng iba pang suliranin, pagkakaisa po ang tanging susi para mapangalagaan ang ating karapatan," Aquino told the audience of government officials and foreign dignitaries at the Batasan Pambansa, of which Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua was part of.

(That's why, as with many other problems, unity is the only key to protect our interests.)

The Aquino government's biggest move against China was to bring it to court over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute. 

A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, however, said around 49% of respondents approve of the Philippine government's "actions regarding the tension" in Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.

'53% of respondents back talks'

The SWS survey, conducted from March 20 to 23, indicated a significant decline from previous ratings.

In September 2013, around 65% approved of the government's moves. In June 2014, around 62% posted their approval.

Another survey, conducted nearly two months after the SWS survey, showed that Filipinos remain divided on the means to resolve Manila's dispute with Beijing.

In a survey published by Philippine broadsheet The Standard, 53% of respondents said it "is better if the Aquino administration resolved this diplomatically."

In contrast, 47% said it "is better that the Aquino administration complained to the United Nations," according to the survey conducted by veteran pollster Junie Laylo.

Aquino, who has Chinese ancestry, was the first Philippine president to approve filing a case against Beijing.

He also fueled anger in China by comparing the Asian giant to Nazi Germany. 

Despite these, Aquino said in 2014 that Manila is willing to "listen" to Beijing. 

He made this statement after an unprecedented meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Chief Executive Officers Summit, which China hosted in 2014.

The Philippines said Aquino and Xi can meet again as Manila hosts APEC this year. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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