Welcome Xi Jinping? Filipinos give China 'poor' trust ratings

MANILA, Philippines – Most Filipinos continue to distrust China despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s high praises for his newfound ally, according to a September Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll released only on Tuesday, November 20.

China recorded a “poor” -16 net trust rating among Filipinos in the SWS survey conducted from September 15 to 23 – far from the “very good” + 59 net rating of the United States, the country’s treaty ally; and the moderate +28 net rating of Japan.

The survey was released past midnight on Tuesday, just hours before the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Manila for a two-day state visit that is expected to culminate in a formal agreement on the two countries' controversial joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (READ: PH quietly prepares joint exploration deal with China for Xi's visit)

The SWS noted a higher distrust in China among Filipinos who are familiar with its actions against the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.

“Pinoys maintain [an] anti-Chinese stance on [the] West Philippine Sea," the SWS said in the document explaining the results. 

Up to 65% said they were aware of China’s “abuses,” specifically how the Chinese Coast Guard had been taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in the disputed seas.

Rejecting Duterte’s policy 

Most Filipinos – 8 in 10 – reject Duterte’s policy of inaction in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: 5 ways Duterte made good on his pivot to China)

“The Third Quarter 2018 Social Weather Survey, conducted from September 15-23, 2018, found that 84% of adult Filipinos reject the government’s policy of doing nothing about China’s intrusion in the West Philippine Sea,” the SWS document said. 

The survey showed that up to 87% of Filipinos said it is “important” for the Philippines to regain control of the maritime features occupied by China. 

A high of 86% also said the capabilities of the Philippine Navy should be strengthened and 71% said the issue should be brought to international attention. 

Improved numbers under Duterte

China has almost always recorded negative trust ratings since SWS began the regular poll in 1994. SWS noted that China had registered positive net trust ratings in only 9 out of 47 surveys. 

China recorded -5 points net trust rating even at the inaugural poll in 1994. The following year, in 1995, conflict over the West Philippine Sea erupted when China wrested control of Mischief Reef. Its net trust ratings slipped to -30 points that year. 

While China’s net trust ratings were mostly poor under the Duterte, the numbers showed significant improvements compared to its mostly “bad” numbers during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, when it reached a low of -46 points. 

It was Aquino who brought China to international court and won a ruling that dismissed Beijing's 9-dash-line claim over the South China Sea. 

Under Duterte, China’s numbers reached positive points once in December 2016 when it recorded 9 points. But it returned to its negative trend in succeeding surveys.

The -16 points in September is also a marked improvement from its “bad” -35 points in June 2018 in the wake of an investigative report showing the Chinese Coast Guard taking the catch of Filipino fishermen in disputed waters. 

The survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,500 adults nationwide: 600 in Balance Luzon, and 300 each in Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao. The survey has sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages; and ±4% for Balance Luzon, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The SWS said its items on people’s opinion about the West Philippine Sea conflict were non-commissioned, and were "included on SWS' own initiative and released as a public service." – Rappler.com